The Utes finished the 2004 season with a 23-33 overall record. Fourteen of the losses were to Top 25 teams.
June 2, 2004
The Utah softball team recently completed its 2004 campaign. The season can be summed up as one of highs and lows for the Utes. Despite producing a 23-31 overall record, Utah won the Mountain West Conference Tournament and advanced to its 12th NCAA Regional.
The Utes began the season with six tournaments on the road. During those tournaments, Utah went head-to-head with some of the best teams in the country, including 2004 World Series participants UCLA, California and LSU. The Utes failed to earn a victory against any of the 13 ranked opponents it faced during this time period, but did gain invaluable experience that paid off in the end. Utah would finish the season with a 1-14 record against Top 25 teams.
"We got to see some of the best pitching in the country at these tournaments and this helps our hitters in the long run," said Head Coach Mona Stevens. "But, we need to find a balance in who we play so we can also produce some wins during these games."
Utah posted an 8-19 overall record heading into league play. The Utes would go on to finish the Mountain West regular season with an 8-12 record. This was the first time Utah had been able to play all 20 of its regular season conference games in three seasons. The previous two seasons, poor weather had forced cancellations. Four Utes earned all-conference honors in Glennis Donnelly, Devina Quintero, Melissa Stahnke and Lynsey Wall.
The 8-12 record earned the Utes the No. 4 seed heading into the conference tournament. The Utes began the tourney with a 1-0 victory over fifth-seeded UNLV, before upsetting the No. 1 seed Colorado State 2-1. Utah would win the championship game with a 3-0 score over No. 2 San Diego State. Ute hurler Brianna Gourdin was named tournament MVP after allowing just eight hits and one run in 21 innings of work. Also named to the all-tournament team were Kate Nygaard, Jackie Wong and Glennis Donnelly.
Winning the league tournament meant an automatic bid to the NCAA Regional for Utah. The regional appearance was the 12th overall for Utah softball. Utah entered the regional with a No. 8 seed for the Stanford site and drew No. 1 seed Stanford, which was ranked No. 7 overall in the country. The Utes played well against the Cardinal, but in the end lost 1-0 to the eventual World Series participant. In the next round, Utah fell to fifth-seeded Southern Mississippi 13-5. The Utes committed five costly errors in the contest.
"We just ran out of steam as a team," said Stevens. "We couldn't turn a corner from last night (the Stanford game) to this morning."
Looking back on the season, it can be noted as a record-breaking one. As a team, the Utes broke the single season record for home runs with 65. That tops the previous record of 60 set by the 2000 squad. Five of those home runs came in Utah's first tournament against Loyola Marymount, which ties the school record for team home runs in a game. Seven different Utes knocked at least one long ball to help equal the new record.
Donnelly, a senior, knocked 17 doubles this season to tie the Ute single season record held by Sunny Smith (2001). She also ripped 19 home runs, which ranked fifth for home runs per game in the NCAA. The St. Louis, Mo., native drove in a team-high 50 runs, while boasting a team-best .760 slugging percentage. Along with being an all-league selection, Donnelly was also named to the all-West region second team and as a MWC Player of the Week during the season.
Melissa Stahnke increased her Ute career-leading home run total to 49, which currently ranks in the NCAA Top 20. The senior also ranks second in Ute career RBI with 162, third in career walks with 89 and fifth in career doubles with 40. The Ridgefield, Wash., native earned all-West region first-team honors along with the all-conference nod. She also found success in the classroom, earning Academic All-District VIII honors for the third year in a row.
Quintero, a freshman, was the surprise for the Utes. The California native punched out 13 home runs and eight doubles, while driving in 42 runs. She also showed her versatility for Utah, playing both right field and second base this year. Quintero was named MWC Player of the Week three times and received the all-conference honor.
Team honors were awarded to the following Utes:
Defensive Player of the Year Melissa Stahnke / 3B Offensive Player of the Year Glennis Donnelly / SS Ironman Award Bryanne Durrence / C Academic Award Heather Bowlin / RHP Newcomer of the Year Devina Quintero / UT