SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – It all comes down to Sunday.
The Utes softball team rebounded from a tough 4-3 loss to San Diego State in the Super Regional on Friday by pounding the Aztecs in Game 2, 10-1 to force a winner-take-all Game 3 tomorrow afternoon.
Ellessa Bonstrom, Julia Jimenez and Shelbi Ortiz all homered and combined to drive in 10 runs to lead the Utes.
The Utes and Aztecs will play one more time, on Sunday at 12 p.m., to decide the winner of this super regional and who will be making the trip to Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series.
“What a team win,” said head coach Amy Hogue “I’m really proud of this group and how they recovered and how they came back after the delay we had, running off seven more runs. I really wish we could play the last game right now, but we’ll get some rest and come back tomorrow.”
Despite being the visiting team on their home field, Utah wasted no time getting on the scoreboard and it was Bonstrom who struck the first blow with two-run round-tripper in the first inning. SDSU quickly sliced that lead in half with a two-out rally that bore fruit in the form of a Makena Brocki RBI single.
The Utes regained their two-run edge in the second courtesy of an RBI double off the bat of Ortiz, then blew the game open in the fourth. A pair of Utah singles brought up Bonstrom with two outs and when she was hit by a pitch, Jimenez strode to the plate with the bases loaded. On a 2-2 offering, Utah’s third baseman smacked a fly ball into left-center that cleared the fence for a grand slam and a 7-1 lead for the Utes. This was Jimenez’s third grand slam of the 2023 season.
Utah had one more offensive outburst in store and it began in the fifth when Abby Dayton reached on an error and Haley Denning beat out an infield hit. Two batters later, Ortiz ripped a 2-0 offering to right for a three-run homer and a 10-1 advantage.
“We talked last night and we play our best game when something is on the line, when our backs are against the wall, said Aliya Belarde. “That’s just Utah softball. We’re gritty and we like to fight.”
That edge proved to be more than enough for starting pitcher Mariah Lopez. After the Aztecs scored in the first, Lopez spent the next three frames holding SDSU to just one hit and she finished her outing having allowed just four total knocks without walking a batter and striking out two. Lopez gave way to Sarah Ladd in the fifth, who recorded the final three outs to set up Sunday’s series-deciding showdown.
“We lost a little bit of it yesterday but this team has so much grit,” Jimenez said. “We’ve been waiting for that moment for a long time and we lost it a little bit yesterday, but we’re going to get them tomorrow.”