After 3-hour rain delay, Utah softball advances past Morgan State in regional match

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DURHAM, N.C. — A three-hour rain delay couldn't stop Utah softball.

After recording a full six innings of play, and the team holding onto a 1-0 lead, Utah needed just three outs to advance through the first elimination game of the Durham regional of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.

Utah inserted Mariah Lopez into the circle at the top of the seventh inning, replacing starter Sarah Ladd, and walked the first Morgan State batter before the field crew was forced to put the tarp on the field due to rain. In total, it was a three-hour, 17-minute delay before Utah could resume action.

With a pinch runner on first base, Morgan State's Ky'Anah Lake stepped up to the plate and got to a 1-2 count before lacing a ball to deep right field for a double, loading up runners in scoring position on second and third base.

But after review, the pinch runner, Maia Wilkins, who was on first base before the hit, was confirmed to have left the base early before the pitch, resulting in an automatic out and negating the double. Morgan State head coach Larry Hineline immediately argued the call — with a few choice words mixed in — and was ejected from the contest.

With a 1-2 count again, Lake was forced to resume her at-bat before eventually being walked after Lopez took her to full count.

Lopez didn't leave anything else to chance, though, and made quick work of the next two batters, Anaya Hunt and Aliso Keener, with back-to-back swinging strikeouts to give Utah the 1-0 win.

Utah now advances to the second elimination game, where the Utes will rematch South Carolina for a chance to play Duke in the championship round of the Durham regional and a super regional opportunity.

Both teams struggled to piece together consistent hitting Saturday as both pitchers kept a clean slate through most of the game. Utah had its chances but couldn't capitalize on stolen base opportunities to put the team in position to score.

Utah broke through in the bottom of the third inning, though, when Shelbi Ortiz singled to shortstop and then reached on an error to second base, giving the Utes a runner in scoring position. On a groundout to second base by Aliya Belarde, Ortiz advanced to third.

Haley Denning then laid down a bunt that allowed Ortiz to score for the only run of the day.

Ladd finished the day for the Utes throwing a full six innings, where she allowed only four hits, had four strikeouts and walked one batter in the win.

Utah will play South Carolina Sunday (11 a.m. MDT, SEC Network) after another rain delay forced the teams to push the game back a day.

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Josh is the Sports Director for and beat writer covering University of Utah athletics — primarily football, men’s and women's basketball and gymnastics. He is also an Associated Press Top 25 voter for college football.


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