‘It just hurt my heart’: Utes fall in weather-delayed WCWS opener, will play again Friday night vs. OSU in elimination game
Washington’s Rylee Holtorf homered and drove in three runs as Huskies overcame early 1-0 deficit
Clutch hitting with runners in scoring position has been a trademark of coach Amy Hogue’s University of Utah softball team this season, but the Utes forgot to take that skill with them to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on Friday.
“Yeah, that is going to be tough (playing again Friday), but like these (players) said, they are tough. And the last time we got beat, (against San Diego State) we killed somebody.” — Utah softball coach Amy Hogue
Stranding nine base runners, and going 1 of 7 with runners in scoring position, No. 15-seeded Utah lost 4-1 to No. 7 Washington in a game that was moved from Thursday night to Friday morning due to weather delays during the first day of the tournament Thursday.
“It just hurt my heart, because they were ready to do it,” Hogue said of Utah’s three-hit performance against two UW pitchers. “And they tried a little too hard, and when they do that, it doesn’t work out very well. So (hitting coach DJ Gasso) reminded them that trying harder isn’t always better. They are going to find a better way to do it tonight.”
Yes, Utah (42-15) is scheduled to play again Friday night.
The Utes dropped into the elimination bracket and will face No. 6 seed Oklahoma State on Friday night. The more-rested Cowboys were able to get their opener in on Thursday, falling 8-0 to Florida State.
First pitch for the Utah-OSU game is tentatively scheduled for 7:30 p.m. MDT, after the Alabama-Stanford game. But since almost every game has gone long at the WCWS, the expectation is that the Utah game will start later than that.
Utah athletic director Mark Harlan questioned the fairness of the arrangement on Twitter, but Hogue avoided complaining in her post-loss remarks.
(1) The @ncaa or the Softball Committee can’t control weather havoc and I appreciate all the work that was done tonight. What they can control is the reality that one team unsurprisingly from the @pac12 will have to play two gams in one day to advance That is unacceptable— Mark Harlan (@MarkHarlan_AD) June 2, 2023
“Yeah, that is going to be tough (playing again Friday), but like these (players) said, they are tough. And the last time we got beat, (against San Diego State) we killed somebody,” Hogue said. “So I mean, I think that the pressure is off. If they felt any pressure today, it is off. Now they are playing for a day off, and some more fun together. They think that is worth it.”
They are also playing for ice cream. Hogue said if the Utes win the elimination game, their team bus will go through the drive through at Braum’s, window by window, so players can order whatever they want from inside the bus.
Ace pitcher Mariah Lopez took the loss, striking out five and giving up seven hits while throwing 123 pitches in six innings of work. Asked whether she expected to be back in the circle in about six hours, Lopez glanced at Hogue in the news conference and said it hadn’t been discussed.
In the fifth matchup between the Pac-12 rivals this year, Utah jumped to a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Haley Denning reached on a weak grounder that was misplayed by the UW infield. Kendall Lundberg doubled Denning home and it appeared the Utes had brought their bats to OKC, but that was all the designated visitors would get.
Washington brought sophomore Rylee Holtorf, which was all the offense the Huskies would need.
She belted a two-run homer off Lopez in the second inning to give UW a lead it would not relinquish.
Holtorf’s full-count single up the middle plated another run in the fourth. In the sixth, Washington got an insurance run when Holtorf singled to load the bases and Olivia Johnson followed with a sacrifice fly RBI.
“She’s a really good pitcher. Her spin is so good. I was just seeing something with good height that I could hit and I saw it and I went for it,” Holtorf said of hitting the homer off Lopez.
Utah’s best opportunity to come back came in the fourth inning. But a mid-inning pitching change paid off for the Huskies, and Lindsay Lopez came in and shut the door on the Utes, giving up just one hit in 3.2 innings to get the win.
Utah’s Julia Jimenez came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth, but Lopez got her to pop out to first base to end the uprising.