Sheri Shrock and the Utah softball team has three doubleheaders on tap this week.
May 2, 2006
On Deck - The University of Utah softball team (32-15, 10-4 Mountain West Conference) has one last chance to snag first place away from conference-leading San Diego State this weekend. Utah wraps up its regular season with road dates at UNLV (Friday, May 5) and San Diego State (Saturday, May 7). The Utes are currently nestled in second place and this weekend's action could have implications come tournament seeding time. However, before the end of league play, the Utes host UVSC (Wednesday, May 3) in a doubleheader. Those are the final home games of the season.
Standings Ramblings - With the final weekend of conference play ahead, the final four games of the season could have an effect on the conference tournament (May 11-13) seeding. Utah could still win or tie for first place as long as San Diego State loses three games this weekend. If the Aztecs lose two to Utah and one to BYU, then Utah would be in first. Any other combination of three losses would result in a first-place tie. As long as Utah matches BYU's efforts this weekend, the Utes are assured of a second-place showing. If BYU out-does Utah, then the Cougars would finish second and Utah third.
The Lineup -
UVSC - The Wolverines enter the week with a 14-34 record. Utah and UVSC have met twice already this year. The Utes picked up 3-2 and 8-0 wins over their rivals from the south. Rachel Hartgrove is the team's top hitter, belting hits out at a .350 clip. She is also tops with 11 doubles and 28 RBI. Defensively, Jackie Roberts is the team's top hurler. She checks in with a 3.77 earned-run average and owns an 8-15 mark this season.
UNLV - The Rebels (22-33, 6-10 MWC) have lost two of their last three, but finished last weekend with a 7-1 win over previously undefeated San Diego State. They are in fourth place in the league. Leading UNLV is Shannon Crisp and her .315 batting average. Maggie Liveri leads the team in doubles (nine) and RBI (29). In the circle, Christi Robinson has a team-best 3.33 earned-run average and an 8-11 record. These two teams met earlier this year in Salt Lake City. Utah bagged 18-2 and 1-0 wins.
San Diego State - SDSU (28-9, 13-1 MWC) saw its 13-game winning streak snapped at UNLV last weekend. The Aztecs currently sit in first place in the league. Erin Floros is one of five Aztec batters hitting better than .300. She hits a team-best .370 and also leads the team with 10 doubles. Christina Ross' 1.15 earned-run average and 13-4 record paces the Aztec pitching staff. The two conference rivals were slated to meet in a doubleheader earlier this season, but it was snowed out. Utah was up 3-1 with the bases loaded and no one out in the second inning of game one when it was called.
Dynamic Duo - Diana Phillips and Jackie Wong got a hit in each of the five games last weekend, extending their respective hitting streaks. Phillips raced her streak out to 17 games while Wong has hit safely in 14 straight. The 17-game hitting streak is the longest on the team this year. Both hitting streaks are career longs for Phillips and Wong.
She's Got A What for an Arm? - Pitcher Karina Cannon pitched Utah to all four wins last weekend. Not only did she win in her two starts (New Mexico and Colorado State), but she came on in relief in two other games (Colorado State and New Mexico State) to help rally the Utes to victory. With the four wins, the junior from Down Under improves to 17-5 on the year. Cannon has proven to be one of the top relievers in the conference as well. She has come on in relief in 13 games this year and tallied three wins and four saves in that role.
Four! - Jessica Shiery had the first four-hit game of her career. She went 4-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored in the game-one win over Colorado State. Shiery has been one of the most potent offensive players on the team as of late. In the last 10 games, she leads the team in hitting .545 (18-for-33) and has a team-best 10 RBI and three home runs. Her .307 batting average this season ranks third on the team but it bumps up to .396 in conference play.
From the Batting Cage - The National Fastpitch Coach's Association has Utah's RPI at No. 39 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. 65 ... the only conference team ahead of Utah in the RPI is San Diego State. The Aztecs check in at No. 17 ... in the latest NCAA stat report, 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) ... 94 of Utah's 185 RBI have come with two outs on the board. So, the Utes get 50.8 percent of their runs with two outs. Leading the team in that category is Devina Quintero. She has 18 two-out RBI. Quintero has a total of 32 RBI on the season ... the Utes have 32 wins this season. That is first time that Utah has broken the 30-win mark in four years. The last 30-win season came in 2002 when the Utes went 30-36. The last time Utah had a winning season and 30-plus wins was in 2001. It went 37-25 that year. Most wins in school history is 51 (1994).
Recap - The Utes went 4-1 last weekend, topping the 30-win barrier for the first time in four years. Utah split its doubleheader with New Mexico (3-7, 8-5), swept Colorado State (7-3, 11-6) and beat New Mexico State (3-2).
Meghan Dyer gave up six runs, four earned, and five hits as UNM powered its way to a 7-3 win in game one. Utah countered with a four-run first inning in game two as it raced out to a 5-1 lead. Devina Quintero led the way in the New Mexico series. She belted out three hits and plated four RBI. Three of them came in the second game off of a pair of RBI singles and a fielder's-choice RBI. But, Diana Phillips' double to right field in the fourth plated the game-winning score, her lone RBI on the day.
Utah broke the 30-win plateau with a pair of wins over Colorado State. Utah would jump on CSU early, claiming a 3-0 lead in game one and a 5-1 lead in game two. But, in both outings, the Rams would rally to within one run and even captured the late lead in game two, 6-5. Utah pulled away in game one by scoring in each of its three at bats. Jackie Wong's solo homer in the fourth proved to be the difference. While in game two, the Utes hung a six spot on the board in the fifth inning, led by Wong's bases-loaded, three-RBI double.
The heartbreak kids waited until the seventh inning to clinch the 3-2 victory over New Mexico State. With runners on first and second, Wong hit a shot up the middle, off the pitcher's glove. The ball rolled into center field, allowing Andrea Hoffman to score all the way from second.
Karina Cannon got all four Utah wins in the circle last weekend. She improved to 17-5 on the year. Dyer was tagged with the lone loss as she slips to 12-6.
A Look at the Tournament - The conference tournament will be held at Media Stadium on the campus of UNLV from May 11-13. The winner of the double-elimination tournament receives the league's automatic bid to the double-elimination NCAA Tournament. All six teams qualify for the tournament with first-round match ups as follows: No. 1 seed playing No. 6, No. 2 playing No. 5, and No. 3 playing No. 4. Tournament seeding is based upon the final conference standings and will be finalized by the night of Sunday, May 7. All tournament games will streamed live over the internet. Radio and TV broadcasts can be streamed through the MWC's Web site, www.TheMWC.com.
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).