SALT LAKE CITY — No. 14 Utah softball did not settle for just one win this weekend against Arizona, the nation's top team, so it took the series on Saturday 3-2 in walk-off fashion.
Alyssa Barrera was the hero Saturday afternoon, delivering a two-out single that scored fellow freshman Ryley Ball. Ball was pinch-running for Kelly Martinez, who started the inning with a single of her own.
"We had the momentum, I know we did," Barrera said. "We were having good at-bats the whole game. I mean, the game would pay us back with something falling in a hole or something getting through, because we were putting good swings on her pitches."
"What's really fun for me is the freshmen there in that last inning," Utah coach Amy Hogue said. "Alyssa and Kelly were the difference-makers. Those two are so big for us in our lineup this year."
Miranda Viramontes (12-1) continued her dominance from Friday, shutting out the Wildcats over the final 3.2 innings. For the weekend, the junior won a pair of games against a team that entered the weekend leading the nation in home runs and slugging percentage, as well as ranking second in the nation in scoring and batting average.
Viramontes entered in relief for Katie Donovan who allowed an earned run over 3.1 frames. Danielle O'Toole suffered just her second loss of the season (22-2) but struck out eight Utah batters.
Arizona gave Utah a taste of its own medicine to start the game, working a leadoff walk and taking a lead on a Mo Mercado single.
Despite being pegged back, Utah answered in its half, loading the bases with three straight singles. Anissa Urtez tied it with a sacrifice fly to right and Bridget Castro blooped a ball just past the UA shortstop for a 2-1 Ute lead.
Arizona tied the score as another leadoff walk hurt Donovan in the second. After a sacrifice bunt, a throwing error by Donovan allowed Tamara Statman to even the game 2-2.
Martinez singled to start the Utah second but was left stranded in scoring position after a strikeout and a pair of ground balls to the right side.
Hannah Flippen tried to do everything herself in the third, walking to begin the inning, stealing second and taking third on a passed ball. However, O'Toole fanned Heather Bowen and got a fly out to keep it tied.
It was Arizona's turn to threaten in the fifth after a leadoff single from Mandie Perez. Viramontes came back to strike out Katiyana Mauga and induce a ground ball from Mercado to quiet the Wildcats.
Utah had a chance to pull in front once more in the sixth when Urtez worked a walk but once again, O'Toole went to her bag of tricks and struck out Castro and Hailey Hilburn.
Arizona loaded the bases in the seventh with two outs after Hogue called on Viramontes to walk Mauga. The decision paid off as Mercado grounded to Urtez and set up the dramatic bottom half of the inning.
"These series are really helping this team to get a feel for what postseason is going to feel like," Hogue added. "We wanted to win this game, but we really did want to use it as preparation for a postseason atmosphere."