Karina Cannon leads the Utah softball team into NCAA Regional action this weekend.
May 16, 2006
On Deck - The University of Utah softball team (38-19 overall) returns to the NCAA Tournament after a year's absence when it plays Indiana in the NCAA Regionals this weekend. Utah battles the Hoosiers on Friday, May 19, at 4 p.m. (CDT). The regional will be played at Red and Charline McCombs Field in Austin, Texas, on the campus of the University of Texas. Also in the regional with Utah are the No. 3-seeded Texas Longhorns and the UTSA Roadrunners. Below is a schedule for the entire weekend:
Friday, May 19 -
Game 1: Utah vs. Indiana, 4 p.m. (CDT)
Game 2: UTSA vs. Texas, 6:30 p.m. (CDT)
Saturday, May 20 -
Game 3: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 1 p.m. (CDT)
Game 4: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 3:30 (CDT)
Game 5: Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 winner, 6 p.m. (CDT)
Sunday, May 21 -
Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 1 p.m. (CDT)
Game 7: Game 6 participants (if necessary), 35 mins. after Game 6
The Lineup -
Indiana - The Hoosiers (29-23-1 overall) received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament after going 1-1 in the Big Ten Tourney. They finished sixth (8-9) in the Big Ten. Leading the way for IU is Lauren Hines. She is hitting .407 this season and leads the team with 10 homers and 11 doubles. In the circle, Mariangee Bogado is tops with a 20-9 mark and a 1.57 earned-run average.
Texas - The Longhorns (49-7 overall) are the tournament's No. 3 seed and received an at-large bid after losing the first two games of the Big 12 Tournament. They did finish first in the Big 12 (15-2). UT is led by Desiree Williams at the plate. She hits a team-best .345 and leads the Longhorns in homers (11) and doubles (eight). In the circle, UT boasts one of the premiere Division I pitchers in Cat Osterman. She is 32-2 with a 0.42 earned-run average.
UTSA - The Roadrunners (37-12 overall) enter the tournament after winning both the Southland Conference regular season (22-5) and tournament titles. Utah did tangle with UTSA earlier this year. The Roadrunners run-rulled Utah, 8-0, at the Las Cruces Invitational back on Feb. 11. Jessica Els' .372 batting average and 13 doubles leads all hitters while Amanda Nikolenko's 23-5 record and 2.20 earned-run average paces all UTSA pitchers.
Tossing Gems - The Ute pitching staff held its opponents at bay last weekend, helping the team cruise through the MWC Tourney with four straight wins. The team earned-run average in the tournament was 0.81 while opponents' batting average checked in at a scant .124. Karina Cannon led the way in going 3-0 in the tourney. She had a 0.50 earned-run average and held rivals to just .118 hitting. Meghan Dyer owned a 1.17 ERA and held rivals to .132 batting.
Back in the Saddle Again - Ivette Hernandez returned to her 2005 all-conference form at the MWC Tourney. Her bat not only kept the Utes in the championship game with San Diego State, but it single-handedly beat Brigham Young. She hit her second and third home runs of the season in the tourney. Her first lifted the Utes to a 1-0 win over BYU while her second came in the sixth against SDSU. It aided in Utah's 5-1, two-inning rally that defeated the regular season champs.
Rally Caps Aren't Necessary - The Utes have thrived all season long with two outs on the board. They have tallied 116 two-out RBI. That accounts for 49.4 percent of team's 235 total RBI on the season. In the MWC Tourney last weekend, Utah had 14 RBI, 10 of which came with two outs in the inning (71.4 percent). In fact, when Utah was down 3-0 to SDSU in the championship game, all five runs that Utah scored in the final two innings were on two outs.
... Come to an End - A pair of Utes saw their hitting streaks come to a halt in the MWC Tournament last weekend. Diana Phillips' 22-game hitting streak came to an end in the 1-0 quarterfinal win over Brigham Young. Meanwhile, Jackie Wong saw her 22-game streak also come to an end in the 1-0 semifinal victory over UNLV. The two 22-game hitting streaks are the longest such streaks in the league this year.
Move Over Casey Kasem - Jackie Wong has been producing hits at a .448 clip this season. In fact, after two games in the MWC Tournament, Wong saw her average soar to as high as .465. Wong is turning in one of the best hitting performances in school history. The last player to have such a season was Amy Timmel in 1994. She finished hitting a school-record .455 that season. It still stands as the school's single-season record.
Stepping Up - While Jackie Wong is the team's best hitter this season, it was Staci Hemingway that stepped up to lead Utah through the MWC Tournament. She hit a team-best .400 (4-for-10) over the four games and led the team in hits, RBI (5), slugging percentage (.800) and on-base percentage (.455). Her biggest hit came in the championships bout. Her two-out, three-run homer in the sixth inning erased what seemed to be an insurmountable three-run deficit. It was only her third homer of the year.
Beefy Lineup - More than half of the starting lineup enters the NCAA Tournament hitting better than .300 in the last 10 games. Leading the way are Jackie Wong and Diana Phillips. They both hit .429 during that span. Also topping the .300 plateau are Staci Hemingway (.367), Devina Quintero (.333) and Jessica Shiery (.333). Hovering just under the .300 barrier is Meghan Crouse, hitting .286 in the last 10 outings.
Honored - Utah had four athletes named all-conference and four named all-tournament. Karina Cannon, Diana Phillips, Jessica Shiery and Jackie Wong were all named all-conference. Cannon and Wong were also all-tournament and were joined by Meghan Dyer and Ivette Hernandez. Cannon won tournament MVP honors as the pitcher went 3-0 in tournament play.
From the Batting Cage - As of May 7, Jackie Wong ranked among the nation's elite. She was seventh in hitting (.456), 14th in triples per game (0.11), 19th in strikeouts per at bat (20.0), and 30th in runs per game (0.89) ... Karina Cannon ranks ninth in saves (four) ... Meghan Dyer ranks 26th in K's per game (9.4) ... the team's .303 batting average ranked 23rd in the nation ... Utah's 38 wins are the most since it won 44 in 1997 ... Utah's last winning season was five years ago (2001, 37-25) ... the team's batting average ups to .306 (241-for-787) with runners on base and jumps to .344 (21-for-61) when the bases are loaded ... the team's leadoff batter reaches 40 percent of the time. Jackie Wong leads the team, reaching 53 percent of the time when she leads off ... the Utes are making their 13th NCAA Tournament appearance (1982, `84, `85, `87, `91, `92, `94, `95, `97, 2000, `02, `04 and `06). They have made the World Series four times (1982, `85, `91, `94) ... the Utes are 17-27 (.386) in the NCAA Tournament, including a 16-19 (.457) mark in regional contests.
Recap - The Utes went 4-0 in the Mountain West Conference Tournament to claim the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Utah got off to a good start with a 9-1 (5) win over New Mexico, thanks to a five-run fourth inning. It was a two-RBI triple by Jessica Shiery and a two-RBI double by Staci Hemingway that broke the game open and lifted Utah to victory.
The Utes returned to secure 1-0 wins over BYU and UNLV. Ivette Hernandez' solo homer in the seventh against BYU was all Utah needed in that win while Devina Quintero's sac fly in the first against UNLV proved to be the difference in that game.
The No. 3-seeded Utes erased a 3-0 deficit and out-scored San Diego State, 5-1, in the final two innings to win the tournament title. Hemingway and Hernandez hit back-to-back homers in the sixth to give Utah the 4-3 lead. SDSU tied it in the bottom of the sixth but Quintero's RBI double in the seventh was too much for SDSU to respond.
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).