Utes eliminated from NCAA Tournament by South Carolina

Utes eliminated from NCAA Tournament by South Carolina

DURHAM, N.C. (ABC4 Sports) – The season came to an end for the Utah softball Sunday afternoon with a 5-1 loss to South Carolina in an elimination game in the NCAA Tournament.

Aniyah Black belted a grand slam home run in the first inning off of Utes starting pitcher Sarah Ladd, while the Utah offense was shut out until the sixth inning.

Utes softball team stays alive in NCAA Tournament

“What this team accomplished this year, especially late in the season,” said coach Amy Hogue, “shows a lot about where their talent level is. I keep saying the word proud, but I’m proud of the work they did to get where they did.”

The Utes offense produced just three runs in three games this week, in which they lost twice the Gamecocks sandwiched around a 1-0 victory over Morgan State.

Mariah Lopez relieved Ladd in the second inning, and didn’t allow an earned run over the last six innings. South Carolina did score once more in the top of the seventh on a fielding error by second baseman Aliya Belarde.

Lopez allowed just one hit in six innings and struck out six.

“Just to keep us in the game,” Lopez said about when she entered the game as a reliever. “That was my mentality, especially knowing that this could be one of our last games, so just enjoy the moment. That’s kind of the mentality out there.”

Haley Denning went 2 for 3 for the Utes, while Abby Dayton, Kaylah Nelson and Sophie Jacquez each added a hit. Jacquez drove in the only run for the Utes on a groundout in the bottom of the sixth, scoring Dayton, who doubled.

South Carolina pitchers Jori Heard and Alana Vawter combined to just one run on five hits.

Utes drop first game of NCAA Tournament, 2-1

Dayton ends the season with a batting average of .431, while Denning hit .418. Denning boosted her career average to .393, which now stands as the highest career average in program history.

“Especially getting a whole career and seeing the class all grow up,” Denning said about enjoying her final year at Utah. “The whole time I have been here, it has been awesome. Then, getting to know all the freshmen who I wouldn’t have known before was super great. This last month has just been fun.”

Utah finishes the season with a record of 35-22. South Carolina, who beat the Utes three times this season by a combined score of 16-2, moves on to face Duke in the regional final.

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