South Carolina's 1st inning grand slam ends Utah softball's season in 5-1 loss

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DURHAM, N.C. β€” All it took was one swing Sunday afternoon.

With bases loaded at the top of the first inning, South Carolina's Aniyah Black took an 0-1 pitch to deep left field and over the wall. And with the grand slam hit, South Carolina took a commanding 4-0 lead before Utah even had a chance to hit.

Utah quickly got two outs after the grand slam to end the half inning, but the damage was already done.

Despite the rough start, Utah also loaded up bases in the bottom of the inning, but Karlie Davison took a 1-0 pitch and popped it up behind the catcher, who had no trouble securing the third and final out to keep a clean slate.

It was the closest Utah got as South Carolina topped the designated home team for the elimination game in a 5-1 win. South Carolina advances to play Duke in the Durham regional final, while Utah's season comes to an end.

After the first inning, in which South Carolina consistently found the timing of starter Sarah Ladd, Utah head coach Amy Hogue elected to put seasoned veteran Mariah Lopez in the circle for the duration of the game.

Lopez kept a clean slate through five innings and two outs of the seventh before Jen Cummings hit a grounder to second base that Aliya Belarde couldn't collect and recorded an error, allowing pinch runner Kyye Ricks to get home.

Lopez finished the six full innings with no earned runs, one hit and six strikeouts, while walking five on the day. Ladd allowed three hits, a walk, and four earned runs in her one inning in the circle.

Utah was held scoreless through five innings, but Abby Dayton got the Utes started in the bottom of the sixth with a double down the right field line. Kaylah Nelsen grounded out to first, sending Dayton to third; and then Sophie Jacquez grounded out to second, but Dayton got across the plate without any attempts to stop her by South Carolina.

The Utes were aggressive for much of the afternoon and tried to find some offense, but it only helped South Carolina as Utah couldn't find holes in the defense. Furthermore, it allowed the Gamecocks to have a chance on a strike zone that was especially tight by the plate ump.

Conversely, South Carolina was patient at the plate, allowing the plate ump to give them better balls to work with. And the Gamecocks took advantage at the right time.

Haley Denning made history in the loss, though, and recorded her 800th career at-bat, in which she doubled down the left field line in the bottom of the third inning. Denning became the first Utah player to ever record 800 career at-bats.

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Josh is the Sports Director for and beat writer covering University of Utah athletics β€” 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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