SALT LAKE CITY – Ellessa Bonstrom lined a game-winning, two-run single into center field in the bottom of the seventh inning and the No. 19 University of Utah softball team completed a sweep of the No. 5 Stanford Cardinal with a 5-4 triumph on Sunday afternoon in Pac-12 Conference action at the Dumke Family Softball Stadium.
For the Utes, the No. 5 Cardinal are the highest-ranked foe Utah has ever swept in a three-game series and their final victory puts them at 29-8 overall and 11-4 in league play.
Sunday Series 𝑺𝑾𝑬𝑬𝑷 🧹— NCAA Softball (@NCAASoftball) April 16, 2023
No. 22 Utah takes game three against No. 5 Stanford, 5-4!#NCAASoftball x 📸 @Utah_Softball pic.twitter.com/IoD2DbMJkP
"I love playing at home and coaching a team that believes that they are going to win all the way to the last out of the game," said head coach Amy Hogue. "As a team, we gain momentum on offense in late innings by using what we've learned throughout the prior at-bats. But it's the never-say-die mentality that is bringing in the wins. We haven't been perfect on defense for a while and yet we are still finding a way to grind.
"Our pitchers were so good this weekend. Mariah's stat line is incredible; 12 innings, one walk, 14 strikeouts and a 1.14 ERA. All I can say is wow! And thank goodness we found a way to win even though our defense lacked at times. Sarah's inning total was small, but every batter she faced was absolutely crucial for two of our wins this weekend. Our staff really leaned on each other and got these wins together."
Utah's seventh-inning comeback started when pinch-hitter Shelbi Ortiz beat out an infield hit and took second on an error. Haley Denning then hustled her way on base with a bunt hit and a walk to Aliya Belarde packed the sacks for Bonstrom. Utah's senior first baseman fell behind in the count before roping a 1-2 pitch into center. Ortiz scored to tie the score and Denning followed with a slide into home that just beat the catcher's tag and Utah had its series sweep.
Utah and Stanford set the stage for that dramatic finish with a back-and-forth affair that started with Utah taking the lead in the second inning, when Julia Jimenez came across on a double play. In the fourth, the home team added two more runs as Sophie Jacquez reached on an error and scored on an Abby Dayton double. When a single by Halle Morris plated Dayton two batters later, the Utes had a 3-0 advantage.
Mariah Lopez held the Cardinal off the scoreboard for the first four innings, but Stanford found a way to break through in the fifth, using an error, a hit and a fielder's choice to load the bases. Emily Young was hit by a pitch to force in the visitors' first run and a sacrifice fly moments later made the score 3-2 before the rally came to an end.
In the sixth, Stanford added two more tallies to take their first lead of the game, with the go-ahead run coming home on a Sydney Steele single. The Cardinal had a chance to add to that edge in the seventh, putting runners on first and third with one out, but Sarah Ladd entered in relief and induced consecutive popups to keep the score frozen. Utah's lineup took care of the rest.
Break out the brooms! 🧹🧹🧹#GoUtes /// #SOTL pic.twitter.com/GfA8o8vQ1K— Utah Softball (@Utah_Softball) April 16, 2023
"The front half of our lineup was on fire this entire weekend," said Hogue. "And the RBI Halle got and the pinch hit by Shelbi in the seventh helped us complete the sweep. I'm most happy for Bonstrom and the walk-off hit. She worked hard to have that opportunity off of Vawter and it was amazing to see her get that two-strike hit to end it. What a weekend. So proud of this team."
The next test for the Utes will be a three-game series in Seattle against the Washington Huskies. Game one will take place on Friday with the first pitch being thrown at 8 p.m. MT.