Jessica Shiery leads the team with eight homers this year.
April 25, 2006
On Deck - The University of Utah softball team (28-14, 7-3 Mountain West Conference) continues its 10-game homestand with five games on the docket this weekend. The Utes play doubleheaders with conference rivals New Mexico (Friday, April 28) and Colorado State (Saturday, April 29) before hosting a single non-league game with New Mexico State (Sunday, April 30). First pitch for the Friday and Sunday games are at 1 p.m., while the Saturday twinbill begins at noon. All games are at Ute Field.
The Lineup -
New Mexico - The Lobos (21-25, 2-12 MWC) have lost five straight and eight of their last nine games. Utah split a pair games with UNM earlier, winning and losing by 5-2 counts. UNM is currently in sixth place in the league. Kristi Schmallen is the top hitter for the Lobos, checking in with a .406 batting average and with a team-high 48 RBI and 12 homers. Katie Gregg's 11 wins leads the Lobo pitching staff while her 4.32 earned-run average is also the best on the squad.
Colorado State - CSU ( 23-19, 4-10 MWC) saw it's 10-game losing streak snapped when it beat New Mexico in its last outing, 9-2. Utah swept CSU in the last meeting, 5-4 and 7-4, respectively, and is 2-1 against it on the year. The Rams are currently sitting in fifth place in the conference. They are led offensively by Jessica Strickland. She is second in the league with a .424 batting average and has a team-best 42 RBI and 10 home runs. CSU's top hurler is Kim Klabough. She's 13-6 on the year and owns a 2.58 earned-run average.
New Mexico State - The Aggies enter this week 24-18 and play Western Athletic Conference foe Utah State before visiting Ute Field. They have won two of their last three games, but dropped a 5-1 decision to Nevada in their last outing. Utah has beat NMSU in all three meetings this season. Stephanie Herrera leads the team at the plate. She is one of four Aggies hitting better than .300, checking in at .339. Sarah Seagraves is NMSU's top thrower with a 15-9 record and a team-low 2.78 earned-run average.
One Thing Leads to Another - Sophomore center fielder Diana Phillips ran her hitting streak to 12 games last weekend. The 12-game hitting streak ties her career high set earlier this year when she had a hit in each of the first 12 games. Not to be outdone, Jackie Wong boasts a nine-game hitting streak and Jessica Shiery has hit safely in each of the last six outings.
Once Bit, Twice "Shiery" - Jessica Shiery became the first Ute to homer twice in the same game this season. She belted her team-leading seventh and eighth homers of the year in the 7-4 loss to San Jose State last weekend. In fact, Shiery has hit three of the team's last four home runs. Shiery's two-dinger effort was the fourth such game for the Utes this season. Utah is 1-3 in games this year when it hits two-plus homers.
You Threatening Me? - Jackie Wong has proven to be one of the league's most dangerous offensive threats this year. The senior second baseman leads the league in hitting .447. That is by far the best batting average in the conference, 23 points better than Colorado State's Jessica Strickland (.424). Wong is also among the tops in the league in triples (first with six), on-base percentage (second, .487), hits (second, 63) and stolen bases (second, 14). In all Wong ranks in the top 10 in 10 of 18 offensive categories.
Fill This Out in Triplicate - The Utes hit all of four triples in 2005. However, the 2006 squad has already tripled that number, belting out 12 on the season so far. Most impressive though, is that Utah's No. 1- and No. 2-hole batters are the best at belting three-sack hits. Leadoff hitter Jackie Wong has smacked a team-high six while the No. 2-hole batter, Diana Phillips has scattered five of her own. Both of them had a triple last weekend.
Ballpark Figure - The Utes continue to brandish their high-octane brand of offense this season. They have tallied seven or more hits in nine straight games, tallying double-digit hits in four of those games. During the current string, Utah tapped Utah State for a season-high 16 hits. In the last nine outings, Utah is averaging 10.0 hits per game, nearly three more hits than its 7.55 hits-per-game average for the season.
From the Batting Cage - The National Fastpitch Coach's Association has Utah's RPI at No. 44 in its simulated poll set up to mirror the NCAA's RPI ... the Utes' strength of schedule in the NFCA RPI ranking checks in at No. 70 ... entering action this week, Jackie Wong is the nation's No. 13-ranked hitter with a .447 batting average. She is also sixth in the nation in triples per game (0.14). Karina Cannon ranks sixth in saves (four) ... over the last 10 games, five Utes are batting .320 or better. Wong is batting .457, Jessica Shiery is hitting .419, Diana Phillips .405 and Andrea Hoffman .320. Kelly Matthews is hitting .500 during that span in only eight at bats ... Utah is hitting .285 for the season but the team sees its average bump up to .303 in conference play ... the team has stolen 11 bases in 13 attempts in conference play. Conference rivals are a meager 3-for-7 in stolen basses versus Utah ... pitcher Meghan Dyer has 139 strikeouts. That is more than the other three Utes pitchers combined. She accounts for 52 percent of the team's K's this season and racks them up at a 9.9 per-game rate ... Utah has the best home record in the league at 9-1.
Recap - The Utes won two out of three last weekend, including a pair of conference wins over in-state rival Brigham Young. Utah snagged 8-5 and 7-2 wins over the Cougars but dropped a 7-4, non-league game to San Jose State.
The Utes raced out to a 6-0 lead on BYU and held on as the Cougars outscored Utah in the final three innings, 5-2. Andrea Hoffman and Jackie Wong each had a pair of hits in the game and also had three RBI apiece. Meghan Dyer got the start in the circle and struck out seven of the first 13 batters. She got the win while Karina Cannon came on in the fifth to pick up her fourth save of the year.
In game two, Utah spotted BYU a 1-0 lead on a solo homer in the second inning. But, it responded with seven unanswered runs to run away with the five-run win. Devina Quintero had only one hit in the game, but it was costly. Her grand-slam homer in the game's fourth inning was too much for BYU, stretching Utah's 3-1 lead to an insurmountable 7-1 cushion. Cannon got the start and went the distance in chalking up her 13th win of the season.
Action last week concluded when San Jose State rallied to erase a 3-1 deficit, tallying the 7-4 win. Jessica Shiery's two solo home runs accounted for the bulk of Utah's offense, coming in the first and third innings. While Cannon got the start in the circle, Lindsie Nielsen came on in relief and is hung with her third loss of the year.
At the Helm - The University of Utah softball team is under the direction of Interim Co-Head Coaches Marianne Bullis and Kyle Magnusson. This is the first stint as head coach for Bullis and Magnusson. Bullis is in her fourth year on the Ute coaching staff while Magnusson is in his second. A search for a full-time head coach will commence at the end of the season.
Preseason Prognosticators - The Utes were picked to finish fifth in the league, according to the preseason coaches poll. Utah earned eight points, one better than sixth-place New Mexico. Brigham Young's 23 points and three first-place votes were good enough for first. Rounding out the rest of the poll is UNLV (22 points, three first-place nods), San Diego State (16), Colorado State (14), Utah (8) and New Mexico (7).
In the Hole - The Utes play their last home games when they host in-state rival UVSC on Wednesday, May 3. The date, originally scheduled as a single game, is a doubleheader with first pitch set for 2 p.m. Utah wraps up the regular season on the road when they play at UNLV (Friday, May 5) and at San Diego State (Sunday, May 7). The Mountain West Conference Tournament is at Las Vegas and starts on Thursday, May 11, lasting through Saturday, May 13.