SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – It was far from easy, but the Utes softball team is moving on in the winner’s bracket of the NCAA Regionals.
Karlie Davison homered, drove in five runs and put the No. 12 University of Utah softball team in front for good with a go-ahead, two-run double in the bottom of the sixth to lead the Utes past the Southern Illinois Salukis, 11-9, in both teams’ NCAA Regional opener on Friday afternoon at the Dumke Family Softball Stadium.
The Utes, who are now 38-13 in 2023, will move on to play the Ole Miss Rebels on Saturday at 1 p.m. with a spot in the regional final on the line. Utah’s 38 wins are the most in a single season since they won 40 games in 2006.
“First win for the Utes in postseason for a long time,” said head coach Amy Hogue. “I was really proud of what they did to endure the ups and downs of that game. There were many, but our offense really took control. I’m proud of them for controlling this game and winning this game.”
Utah’s offensive onslaught started right away, as Sophie Jacquez and Abby Dayton drove home the first two runs with RBI singles. Davison then blasted a three-run homer to center to cap her team’s first inning eruption. Jacquez struck again with another RBI single in the second that boosted the Utes’ lead to 6-0.
“It was a lot of fun,” Davison said. “It was awesome to see that many people in the outfield. I expect more tomorrow. I want to see all those seats filled on Saturday. It’s just great to play at home.”
The Salukis mounted a furious comeback, starting the third by stringing together six straight hits that brought in four runs and a Sidney Jones sacrifice fly tallied the fifth run of the frame to slice Utah’s lead to one. The Utes quickly answered, however, thanks to a Belarde two-run knock in the bottom of the third that upped Utah’s advantage to three.
Ellessa Bonstrom then tied the school record with her 175th career RBI on a double in the fifth inning to give Utah a seemingly comfortable 9-5 lead. But SIU’s offense came to life again in the sixth, using an error, a walk, two singles and a two-run Rylie Hamilton double to draw level. The Salukis had a chance to pull ahead later in the frame, but Mariah Lopez escaped a bases-loaded jam and the game remained tied.
In the bottom of the sixth, Utah’s lineup had one more rally in their bones and it started with singles from Jacquez and Dayton that brought up Davison. The Utes’ freshman shortstop roped a 2-0 pitch into left-center, bringing in both runners to give the home team one more lead. Lopez allowed a lead-off single in the seventh, but set down the next three hitters to seal the victory.
“The word I got the most when we won [the Pac-12 Tournament Championship] last weekend was inspiring,” Hogue said. “It’s fun to watch. Even though we had our ups and downs today, this is what postseason is about.”