LOS ANGELES – Utah softball (23-23, 6-12) bounced back in dominant fashion on Sunday afternoon against third-ranked UCLA (39-6, 15-3), serving the Bruins their first home loss of the year in a five inning run rule, 8-0.
This snaps a 13-game losing streak against the Bruins and is the first win against UCLA since March 19, 2017, when the Utes earned a series sweep on the road with a 4-0 victory.
This was also the first win against a top-3 ranked opponent since April 20, 2019, when the Utes defeated No. 3 Washington at home 5-4.
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Aliya Belarde, Ellessa Bonstrom and Kendall Lundberg powered the Utah offense, each crushing a home run. Belarde hit her first home run of her career in the first at bat of the game and Bonstrom followed with the second home run of the inning two batters later. Lundberg hit her towering homer in the fifth to extend the lead to 7-0 and was the only Ute with two hits in the contest.
In total, seven Utes collected a hit, as five earned an RBI on the day.
Shi Smith earned her team-leading ninth win after replacing Sydney Sandez in the circle in the third. Smith went 3.0 innings, giving up one hit, one walk and striking out two in the process. Sandez made her 17th start in 29 appearances this afternoon and allowed no runs on four hits while striking out three.
The win moves the Utes back to an even .500 record (23-23) and a 6-12 mark in Pac-12 play.
Utah got off to a quick start on Sunday, picking up more hits in the first inning than they've had over the entire series, scoring four runs on four hits to jump out to the early lead. Belarde got the fun started, slapping her first career home run over the right field fence on the third pitch of the ball game. Two batters later, Bonstrom joined in, crushing her 11th homer of the year to extend the lead 2-0.
FIRST CAREER HOME RUN for @alibelarde1 puts the Utes on top early‼️💥— Utah Softball (@Utah_Softball) May 1, 2022
T1 | Utes 1, Bruins 0
📊: https://t.co/sOPYMNjxLF#GoUtes /// #Relentless🌊🌊 pic.twitter.com/uvJFEBkaRL
With two away, Jordyn Gasper kept the inning alive by singling up the middle and a fielder's choice would allow Lundberg to reach safely and put Utes on first and second.
Destiny White followed, hitting a dribbler to third base and the UCLA first baseman couldn't squeeze the catch as White would reach on the error and score Gasper. After chasing the UCLA starter out of the game, catcher Katie Faulk picked up her 14th RBI of the season, dropping the ball on the right field line to give the Utes the 4-0 advantage.
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Sandez entered the circle for the Utes and held the Bruins in the bottom half of the inning, grounding out the first two batters before giving up a single. Sandez went on to end the frame, striking out the ensuing batter swinging.
The Utes were retired in order in the top of the second and Sandez continued to deal, picking up another two strikeouts to keep the UCLA bats quiet.
Lundberg found Utah's fifth hit in the third with two outs, however no further progress was made. The Bruins offense then came alive in the third starting with a pair of singles that would end Sandez's day. Smith replaced Sandez on the mound and got into a bases loaded jam with no outs. Staying composed, Smith fouled out the next batter and Belarde got the Utes out of the jam, fielding her 12th double play of the season to sit in a tie for first in the Pac-12 in that category.
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Utah plated another run in the fourth as Faulk reached safely with a leadoff walk. AJ Militello entered as a pinch runner for Faulk and advanced to second on a passed ball. Denning earned her 11th RBI of the year with two away, chopping a shot right in front of home plate and beating the throw to score Militello. Up 5-0 on the Bruins, Denning was caught stealing to end the inning.
Smith picked up her first strikeout of the game in the bottom of the fourth and Denning made an incredible play on a ball up the middle, making the diving stop and reaching towards Belarde who grabbed the ball out of her glove for the force out at second.
Lundberg with a towering homer off the scoreboard🤯— Utah Softball (@Utah_Softball) May 1, 2022
Second of the year for Lundberg and the third 💣 of the afternoon👊
T5 | Utes 7, Bruins 0
📊: https://t.co/sOPYMNjxLF#GoUtes /// #Relentless🌊🌊 pic.twitter.com/y3HkxII1mb
The Utes struck again in the fifth, crossing two runs on three hits. Jimenez found her first hit but was put out at second on a fielder's choice. Lundberg then stepped up to the plate and hit the second home run of her career off the scoreboard, a two-run shot that extended the lead 7-0. MK Gomez, who replaced White as a pinch runner after reaching on a throwing error, scored the final run of the game as Faulk reached safely on the second throwing error of the inning.
Smith sealed the victory facing the minimum in the Bruins half of the fifth and collected her third strikeout.