Weather delays Utes’ return to Women’s College World Series

Utah's Mariah Lopez and Ellessa Bonstrom meet with the media prior to the Women's College World Series on Wednesday, May 31, 2023. Photo: University of Utah Athletics

OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma, June 1, 2023 (Gephardt Daily) — Inclement weather has delayed the University of Utah’s return to the Women’s College World Series until Friday.

Utah (42-12) had been scheduled to open the eight-team tournament against Washington (43-13) on Thursday night, but lightning delayed play between Oklahoma State and Florida State and pushed the Pac-12 Conference showdown to 11 a.m. MDT Friday.

The Utes have waited 29 years to return to the WCWS, so delaying play by a day shouldn’t be too difficult.

“Being here is exciting,” said Utah head coach Amy Hogue, who was captain of the last Utes team to advance to the Women’s College World Series. “It’s been a long time — apparently 29 years. Someone’s been keeping track. It’s changed a lot. This game has grown a ton. I couldn’t be happier than to be here with the group I’ve got here today.”

Utah finished 27-27 in 2022 and failed to advance to the Pac-12 tournament. This year, the Utes won the conference tournament, hosted and won an NCAA Regional and Super Regional to advance to the Women’s College World Series.

Utes slugger Ellessa Bonstrom said falling short in 2022 helped propel the team to one of the most successful seasons in school history.

“I think what helped us was not making postseason last season,” said Bonstrom, who leads the Utes in RBIs (54), slugging percentage (.638) and on base percentage (.459). The grad student from Tucson, Arizona, also has 11 home runs this season, tying Karlie Davison for the team lead.

“We had the record. We were right there to make it, and we were just one of those bubble teams that didn’t make it,” Bonstrom explained. “So I think that kind of led to this year where all season we have been saying we’re going to be here at this time. So I think, if we wouldn’t have made postseason last year, it wouldn’t have been as great of a story as it is this year. It’s definitely that ‘chip on the shoulder’ mentality for this year.”

“I think that we’ve known from the start of this year that we were going to make it here,” added Utes ace Mariah Lopez, a 23-game winner this season and the first Utah hurler to reach 200 strikeouts since 2012.

Lopez, named this week as a Third-Team All-American by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association, is expected to be in the circle when the Utes and Huskies take the field Friday at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium. It will be the fifth meeting between the Pac-12 teams, with each team winning two previous meetings.

Utah prevailed in the most recent matchup, claiming an 8-4 victory in the semifinals of the Pac-12 Tournament on May 12 in Tucson, Arizona. Utah dropped two of three games to Washington during an April 21-23 series in Seattle, winning the opener 2-1 before falling 6-5 and 6-3.

“We’re 2-2 against those guys,” Hogue said. “We’re familiar with them; they’re familiar with us. So that brings its own challenges. I like the fact that it’s familiar for us because this environment is going to be so unfamiliar that it will give us one more thing to settle our team. I think if they look up and aren’t used to being in front of 16,000 people, but they see a hitter that we’re facing that they are familiar with, it might help comfort them on that first game.”

Utah, the No. 15 seed, is the lowest seeded team to advance to the Women’s College World Series this season, joining No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 3 Florida State, No. 4 Tennessee, No. 5 Alabama, No. 6 Oklahoma State, No. 7 Washington and No. 9 Stanford.

Utah’s four previous WCWS appearances came in 1982, 1985, 1991 and 1994. Hogue was a member of the 1991 and ’94 squads.

Utah coach Amy Hogue meets with the media prior to the Womens College World Series on Wednesday May 31 2023 Photo University of Utah Athletics


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