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Utah beats Morgan State to advance in NCAA softball tournament

Utah pitcher Sarah Ladd during the Utes' NCAA tournament game against Morgan State on Saturday, May 18, 2024.
Utah pitcher Sarah Ladd during the Utes' NCAA tournament game against Morgan State on Saturday, May 18, 2024. | Eli Rehmer

After losing to South Carolina in the first game of the NCAA softball tournament, Utah is headed for a rematch with the Gamecocks.

The 2-1 loss to the Gamecocks sent the Utes to the elimination bracket, where they faced Morgan State on Saturday afternoon.

Ute pitcher Sarah Ladd threw a gem, blanking the Bears and holding them to four hits with four strikeouts over six innings, with Mariah Lopez replacing Ladd to start the seventh inning. Lopez walked Gianna Ettore to start the inning, and then the rain started to pour.

The rain delay in the top of the seventh inning, with just three outs left to go, forced both teams to their locker rooms for over three hours in Durham, North Carolina, with Utah up 1-0.

The Utes had taken the lead in the third inning on a Haley Denning bunt that scored Shelbi Ortiz. Denning’s bunt sent Bears catcher Aliso Keener out to retrieve it, and Ortiz sped home as Keener threw to first base.

Lopez walked Ettore in the top of the seventh, then the three hour, 17 minute rain delay began.

When the game resumed, the next batter Lopez faced, Ky’Anah Lake, hit what looked to be a double that advanced pinch runner Maia Wilkins to third base with no outs, but it was ruled that Wilkins left first early and she was called out.

Lake returned to the plate and was walked, but Lopez got Anaya Hunte and Alison Keener to strike out swinging to end the game.

The Utes were scheduled to face South Carolina immediately after defeating Morgan State, with the winner advancing to Sunday’s championship game against Duke, but the game was postponed to Sunday after yet another rain delay.

The start time for Sunday’s game against South Carolina will be at 11:05 a.m. MDT.