Kayce Nieto picked up her second straight win on Sunday in Utah's 8-3 win over No. 15 UCLA, 8-3.
April 7, 2013
SALT LAKE CITY - Freshman Kayce Nieto picked up her second consecutive victory and the University of Utah softball team earned its first-ever Pac-12 Conference series victory with an 8-3 win over No. 15 UCLA in Sunday's series finale at Utah Softball Stadium.
After being edged 6-4 by the Bruins in the series opener, Utah (16-20-1, 3-9 Pac-12) has won back-to-back conference games for the first time since becoming a member of the Pac-12 during the 2011-12 season.
"The bottom of our lineup really came through today," Utah Head Coach Amy Hogue said. "We always talk about having two big innings and putting a four-spot and a two-spot on the board is a big deal. Again, it was Kayce Nieto on the mound giving us a chance to win a ballgame."
In her seventh start of the season, Nieto allowed three earned runs while scattering six hits and striking out one with a pair of walks. The Farmington Hills, Mich., native has won three of her last four starts, all coming against Pac-12 foes, and is now 5-5 in decisions this season.
The Ute defense was solid behind Nieto as it turned in its ninth error-free performance of the season and Utah owns a 5-4 record in those contests.
Offensively, nine different Utes came up with hits for the Utes as they registered 14 hits on the day, a season-high in conference games, including a season-high three triples.
Freshman catcher Shelby Pacheco was 2-for-3 at the plate with four RBI to lead the way with a double and a triple. The Casa Granda, Ariz., native has four doubles and two triples this season for 21 RBI. She has five multi-hit efforts in 2013 and has driven in at least two runs in four different contests this season.
"(Pacheco) did a nice job today," Hogue said. "She really had no business going to the plate with confidence, but decided in her head that it's a new day. We challenged the bottom of the lineup today and she went with it. She said I'm going to be the one who responds. She told me that she felt comfortable and she looked comfortable. She's a freshman, too, and she's only going to get better."
Sophomore Mariah Ramirez turned in her second straight multi-hit effort with a 2-for-4 day at the plate and she also scored twice. The Hawaiian Gardens, Calif., native has three games with two or more hits this season.
The Bruins took the lead early with an RBI single by Stephany LaRosa in the top of the first, but Utah responded with five unanswered scores.
Senior shortstop Kelsi Hoopiiaina looped a triple through the left-center field gap that allowed sophomore left fielder Kate Dickman to score from first base. Utah has scored in the first inning in each of its last two games and Hoopiiaina now has three triples this season and six for her career. The Riverton, Utah native has 97 RBI for her career, 21 coming in 2013.
Sophomore right-fielder Marissa Mendenhall celebrated her 20th birthday by singling up the middle to lead off the Ute second with single and pinch runner Trina Gomez advanced to third base after a double by Ramirez through the left-center gap to put Utes on second and third base. Pacheco then tripled to right-center for two runs and Sweet followed with another two-run triple for two more Utah runs to give the Utes a 5-1 edge.
After a scoreless third, Jessica Hall hit a solo homer with one out in the top of the fourth to cut UCLA's deficit to three runs, 5-2. But Utah added to its lead with two more runs in the fifth as Pacheco doubled to left-center field with two on to give the Utes a 7-2 advantage.
The Bruins got one run back in the sixth, before freshman third baseman Kristen Stewart connected on an RBI single to left field, the Utes' third base hit of the frame, to set the final margin at 8-3 in favor of Utah. Stewart, a Covina, Calif., native, has driven in six runs for the Utes this year.
Paige McDuffee took the loss on the mound for UCLA (26-13, 3-9 Pac-12) and saw her record fall to 5-2 this season after giving up four earned runs on four hits in 1.0 inning of work.
The Utes host Weber State on Wednesday in a non-conference doubleheader at Utah Softball Stadium. First pitch is at 4 p.m. Live audio will be available at utahutes.com, while live stats will be viewed at utahutes.com as well.