Utah wins third home game in a row with 5-4 upset of No. 2 Arizona State
SALT LAKE CITY -- With a runner on second in the bottom of the eighth, freshman catcher Shelby Pacheco laced a walk-off double to left-center field to give Utah a 5-4 win against No. 2 Arizona State, which was the Utes' third consecutive Pac-12 conference home victory on Friday at Utah Softball Stadium.
In the bottom of the eighth, sophomore Shelbi Everett reached on a fielder's choice with one out. ASU was able to get a strikeout for the second out of the frame, but Everett was able to advance to second base after a passed ball. Pacheco then struck her fifth double of the season over the heads of the drawn-in Sun Devil outfielders to give Utah the victory.
"[Shelby Pacheco] didn't have a hit on the day, but faced the same pitcher two innings before and hit the ball hard," Utah head coach Amy Hogue said. "It created a double play because she hit it so hard, but she knew she could hit the ball well then went in there and battled. Early in the at-bat, she barely hung in there and barely got a piece of the ball for a foul tip then realized that she was above the ball. She made an adjustment with her swing that won the ballgame for us. To be able to understand how to make adjustments like that as a freshman in a situation like that is impressive."
Utah (20-23-1, 5-11 Pac-12) has won three games in a row against Pac-12 foes at home after taking its final two games against No. 15 UCLA in Salt Lake City on April 6-7. With the win, the Utes also improved to 2-2 in extra-inning games this season.
"I'm really proud of my team," Hogue said. "They came out with a plan to win and we played that way the entire game. Each game, we have a player assigned to pick two words for the day and [junior] Taylor [Austin] picked 'battle' and 'drive.' [Friday] was such a battle because we're facing great hitters every pitch and we're facing great pitchers every pitch. It's going to be a battle, a grind and we really stepped up. They should enjoy every moment of this win. Winning the first game means we have two chances to go out and win a series and that's really fun to be able to come out and play loose for the next couple of days."
Five different Utah players had one RBI, including Pacheco, Chalese Fankhauser, Jackie Sweet, Kate Dickman and Mariah Ramirez, while four different Utes each registered two-hit nights -- Fankhauser, Sweet, Ramirez and sophomore Marissa Mendenhall.
On the mound for the Utes, freshman Kayce Nieto threw five solid innings in her ninth start of 2013, allowing three earned runs on seven hits with a strikeout and two walks, but came away with a no-decision.
Ramirez picked up the win by throwing the final three innings in relief, yielding one earned run on three hits and issuing one walk. She came away with the victory in the decision and improved her record to 7-8 this season.
"It wasn't Kayce's best day," Hogue said. "She wasn't on so we had to make some really tough plays. Freshman Kristen Stewart at third got turned around on a couple of balls that just spun her and we needed to make plays like that. We've always talked about having to play the perfect game to have a chance to win in this league and [Friday] was one of those days."
The Utes got off to a fast start as Sweet hit a one-out double to center field in the first inning, her ninth of the year and Dickman singled in Sweet for the first score of the contest, which was also her 30th RBI of the season. The Utes are now 14-5 this season when scoring in the first inning and improved to 16-7 when scoring before their opponents.
Mendenhall led off Utah's second frame with a double, also her ninth of the year, and pinch runner Trina Gomez crossed home plate for Utah's second score of the contest after Mariah Ramirez lined another double down the left field line. Ramirez now has 10 RBIs this season.
After four unanswered runs, Mendenhall and Ramirez roped back-to-back singles to put Ute runners on first and second base in the seventh. After the Sun Devils were able to turn a double play with the bases loaded, Fankhauser slapped an RBI single to ASU's shortstop that allowed Everett to score from third base for her 16th RBI of the season. Sweet then roped a single to left field that allowed pinch runner Shay Shaum to score the equalizer. Sweet has driven in 22 runs this season and has reached base safely in 20 consecutive contests.
"What's fun about Jackie [Sweet] right now is that no one knows what to pitch to her because she's shown she can hit every pitch," Hogue said. "She's been clutch for us for a while. She hit balls right at people and that's part of the game. Shelby did that same thing."
No. 2 Arizona State (38-6, 9-4 Pac-12) received a 3-for-3, three-RBI effort from first baseman Bethany Kemp, while catcher Amber Freeman went 3-for-4. Mackenzie Popescue was dealt the loss and is now 16-2 this season.