With their postseason hopes left hopelessly behind on a poor road trip to California the previous weekend, the Utah women's softball team had little more than pride to play for this weekend.
After sweeping a doubleheader with New Mexico on Friday, the Utes came back to sweep Colorado State with a pair of victories Saturday.Behind the pitching of Ali Andrus and the hitting of Cyndee Bennett, the Utes won the first game 7-0 and thanks to Sandy Rhea's clutch hit, captured the second game 3-1. With the wins, the Utes solidified their third-place standing in the WAC at 14-7 (29-22 overall), while CSU fell to 14-13 (29-23 overall).
"These games were critical, just to get us on a roll," said Ute coach Jo Evans. "It's tough when you're out of the title race. We took these games as a real challenge."
After a so-so preseason, the Utes were on the borderline for making the NCAA regionals after splitting with nationally-ranked Fresno State and beating Cal State-Northridge at home. But last weekend, the Utes went to Southern California and lost four straight, including a pair to lowly San Diego State.
"It all came down to one weekend and it really killed us," said Evans. "We've been hit and miss here and there all year. We haven't been consistent in our play."
After battering New Mexico in a pair of games Friday, the Utes knew they'd have a tougher time against a Colorado State team that had already beaten them this year.
They used three hits to score a pair of runs in the fourth inning, and then the Utes exploded for five in the sixth thanks to Bennett's three-run homer. Andrus finished with eight strikeouts in improving to 14-13 on the season.
"Our pitchers looked really good today - Ali was back to her old form," said Evans.
In the second game, the score was tied 1-1 when Utah went ahead for good with two runs in the bottom of the fifth. After Tammy Beer reached base on an error and Stacie Reynolds singled, Rhea doubled them both home with a liner to left-center. Monica Jimenez picked up the victory.
"We are a very good team and we have underachieved this season," said Evans. "We want to come away feeling like this was a successful season. Our goal has been to finish in the top three in the WAC. We want to finish strong and see what happens."
Evans admits her team's chances of making it to the NCAA regionals as an at-large team are practically nil unless some strange things happen next week to the teams ranked ahead of them. The Utes finish the regular season with doubleheaders against Southern Utah - Tuesday in Cedar City and Saturday at Ute Field.
Between games, the Utes honored approximately 30 former Ute softball players in ceremonies on the field.