Utes’ postseason party will continue at Women’s College World Series

Photo: Evan Jones/University of Utah Athletics

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, May 28, 2023 (Gephardt Daily) — The University of Utah‘s postseason party is headed to Oklahoma City.

The Utes rallied around ace Mariah Lopez with defense and run support to defeat San Diego State 7-2 and win the NCAA Super Regional series 2-1 Sunday afternoon at Dumke Family Softball Stadium.

The victory sends Utah (42-14) to Women’s College World Series for the first time since 1994.

“It has been too long,” said Utes head coach Amy Hogue, the captain of that 1994 team. “They have been building and doing all the things that it takes to get there. You can’t take what we just did for granted. It’s incredibly hard.”

Utah, the No. 15 seed, opens the eight-team Women’s College World Series against seventh-seeded Washington (43-13) at 7:30 p.m. MDT Thursday in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The Utes and Huskies last met May 12 in the Pac-12 Conference Tournament, with Utah wining 8-4 to advance to the championship game.

Lopez turned in another strong performance in the circle against San Diego State (39-17), allowing just two runs (one earned) on four hits, while striking out six and walking three in five innings.

The Utes have relied heavily on the left-handed junior from Peoria, Arizona, during their postseason run, and she’s delivered. Lopez has started eight consecutive games, going 7-1 with a 1.96 ERA and striking out 42 in 46.1 innings.

“I am going to give it up to Mariah Lopez. She was unbelievable,” Aztecs coach Stacey Nuveman Deniz said after the game. “I don’t know what her pitch total was this weekend — somewhere in the 300s — and that is sort of a throwback to this generation. I don’t know her, but I am proud of her. She battled her butt off and carried her team … so congrats to them.”

The Utes’ offense also got going early, scoring four runs and getting four of their 11 hits in the second inning for a 4-1 lead.

“I love to see 11 hits,” Hogue said. “That was the name of the game. It was really important that we get run support for Mariah since they’d seen her so many innings. It was really important to get a big number up early, and we got a big number up early. After that, we never looked back. I’m really proud of this team.”

Abby Dayton went 2-for-3 with an RBI triple, pinch-hitter Halle Morris was 1-for-1 with two RBIs and Aliya Belarde was 1-of-3 with an RBI to lead the Utes.

After losing 4-3 in the series opener Friday night, Utah’s offense came alive with back-to-back games with double-digit hits. The Utes had 13 hits in a 10-1 victory Saturday that was shortened to five games by the college softball mercy rule.

Dumke Family Softball Stadium set attendance records at all three games of the Super Regional series, with each crowd surpassing the previous game. Attendance Sunday afternoon was a record 3,093, topping crowds of 2,925 Saturday afternoon and 2,723 Friday night.

“This is for everyone that helped build this place,” Hogue said following the series victory. “The university, who decided to build a nice stadium that we could fill up and do this. There is so many pieces that went into place, and the [alumni] that are out there, they built this. I just got to write the lineup and be a part of the ride. I am just really proud of the accomplishment because there were so many people involved, and we should be proud of that fact that it was a whole group that got this done.”


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