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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah softball is moving on.
The Utes secured a 4-1 win for the second straight day against the Ole Miss Rebels to advance to the super regional round of the NCAA Tournament. Utah went 3-0 in the Salt Lake City regional to advance to the next round, where the Utes will, again, host the super regional for the first time in program history.
Utah will host the super regional due to second-seeded UCLA failing to advance from the Los Angeles regional, in which it hosted. The Bruins lost its first two games and were bounced from the tournament.
The Utes finished the afternoon game with a .407 batting average, 11 hits and two strikeouts against the Rebels to avoid an elimination game. Ole Miss entered the game with a 2-1 regional record and needed a win to force the elimination game, but Utah remained spotless and held off the Rebels.
“I’m really proud of this team accomplishing something we’ve not done,” Utes head coach Amy Hogue said. “We’ve never had the opportunity to host supers. I’d love anybody to come here and play this team right now because we’re playing great and we just earned a couple more days of ball.”
Utah opened up the scoring in the bottom of the second inning when Karlie Davison hit a two-run home run to left center that also sent home Juia Jimenez to give the home team an early 2-0 lead. Later in the inning, Kendall Lundberg hit a hard ground ball up the middle of the field to send Abby Dayton home to give Utah a 3-0 lead over Ole Miss.
Aliya Belarde added to the lead in the fourth inning with a perfectly placed low pop up that landed just before second base, and Shelbi Ortiz, who was on second base after a double to center field, pushed the tempo and got to home before the Rebels could collect the ball.
The score forced Ole Miss head coach Jamie Trachsel to switch out her pitching, replacing starter Catelyn Riley with freshman Grace Sparks. Riley finished the day allowing nine hits and two walks, while only getting one strikeout against 19 different batters faced.
Sparks provided a defensive boost to the Rebels and slowed down the bats of the Utes. Utah managed only two hits against Sparks in the three innings she pitched for Ole Miss.
Ole Miss avoided a shutout against the dominant pitching of Utah’s Mariah Lopez after leadoff batter Aynslie Furbush got hit by a pitch to send her to first base. Two batters later, Jalia Lassiter hit a double to center field that went over Dayton’s head.
Lassiter attempted to stretch the hit into a triple but was tagged out at third on a relay from Dayton to shortstop Davison and then to Jimenez at third, who got the tag. But before the out, Tenly Grisham, who pinch ran for Forbush, scored the team’s lone run of the day.
Lopez pitched a complete game and finished the day allowing six hits, three walks and only one earned run.
The Utes now await the winner of San Diego State or Liberty in the super regional, which is a best-of-three style series that will begin next weekend.