Oregon’s ‘superior hitting’ overwhelms Utah in series, 34-17

Shelby Pacheco at bat during the game against Ole Miss on March 3. Photo by Erin Burns.

Shelby Pacheco at bat during the game against Ole Miss on March 3. Photo by Erin Burns.

Utah struggled to find a way to defeat Oregon in its three-game series at Utah Softball Stadium that concluded Monday afternoon.

The Utes dropped all three games against the Ducks and were outscored 34-17. Utah fell 8-7 on Saturday, 12-7 on Sunday and 14-3 on Monday.

“Obviously we couldn’t hold them defensively or without pitching,” said head coach Amy Hogue. “My team fought, and we got better throughout all the weekend.”

The Utes’ pitchers struggled against Oregon’s superior hitting ability. Junior Mariah Ramirez allowed six runs in five innings in Saturday’s game, and Kayce Nieto didn’t fare much better on Sunday and Monday as she surrendered grand slams in both contests. Freshman Sammy Cordova came in as a reliever in all three games and gave up a combined eleven runs over the series.

“I think they just hit the ball really hard,” said sophomore catcher Shelby Pacheco, who caught all three games. “We hit out spots, and we did great. They just hit the ball.”

Hogue doesn’t believe the scoreboard reflects the proper story of the weekend, particularly Monday’s game, which was called after five innings because of the mercy rule.

“Honestly, the score is hardly ever indicative of how well you played against them,” she said, pointing out the Ducks did a great job of capitalizing on opportunities to bring runs home. In Monday’s tilt, Oregon scored seven runs in the third inning and six in the fifth.

In all, Oregon was able to score in 12 of the 19 innings played during the series. While Utah struggled defensively, its offense did have some success, averaging nearly six runs per game.

“We scored runs all three game against Oregon, which is a huge positive for us,” Hogue said. “I don’t think that there is a team in the country that has put up that many runs on them.”

This was particularly encouraging because in the circle for the Ducks in two of the three games was Cheridan Hawkins, who Hogue feels is one of the five best pitchers in the country. Hawkins pitched six innings on Saturday and five on Monday. She also hurled an inning of relief on Sunday. In Monday’s contest, Hawkins tallied 10 strikeouts. Utes’ pitchers only got six the entire series.

“She throws a rise ball,” Pacheco said. “That is really rare for a lot of pitchers, and it was really moving.”

After the series with Oregon, Utah moved its record to 11-12 overall and 1-4 in conference play. The Utes will next play Idaho State on Wednesday afternoon at Utah Softball Stadium.

The game is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. MT.

d.garcia@chronicle.utah.edu