Arizona gave up two six-run leads, struggling from the circle in a back-and-forth 13-11 loss to Utah that clinched the series for the Utes on Sunday afternoon at Hillenbrand Stadium.
Arizona was coming off a nine-inning 10-9 comeback win against Utah on Saturday that tied the series at 1-1, and ended an 11-game winning streak for the Utes.
“I thought they competed their butts off today and came up one short, but that wasn’t for a lack of preparation or effort,” Arizona coach Caitlin Lowe said. “Friday’s loss hurt because I felt like we weren’t ready. Today’s loss hurt because it was a collective. They left everything out on the field and still came up short, and sometimes that hurts more.”
The Wildcats clung to an 11-10 lead after five innings.
Sydney Somerndike took over on the mound for Aissa Silva to start the sixth inning, but she couldn’t keep the Utes’ offense at bay. She gave up a single to Belarde, Bonstram was hit by a pitch, and Jimenez reached base on a feilder’s choice before an RBI single from Jacquez scored Belarde to tie the game at 11-11.
Brianna Hardy was the fifth Arizona pitcher to take the mound, taking over for Sydney Somerndike with one out in the top of the sixth. The Utes would load the bases before Hardy got the Wildcats out of a jam by striking out pinch hitter Elicia Espinoza
Devyn Netz retook the mound in the top of the seventh for the second time to attempt to salvage the game for the Wildcats, but Ellessa Bonstrom, a Tucson-raised former standout at CDO, had different plans. After Netz walked Karlie Davison, Bonstrom hit a two-run homer to right field to give the Utes a 13-11 lead.
“I honestly just wanted some runs to go back into the seventh inning and winning,” Bonstrom said. “I wasn’t looking to do much, but it just happened to go over (the wall). I was just happy to get those extra runs for Halle in the last inning.”
Halle Morris, another Tucson native and former teammate of Bonstrom at CDO, closed out the side in the bottom of the ninth to seal the win for the Utes.
“It was great (playing in Tucson). I have the utmost confidence in this team, and it was fun to come here and get out of the snow a little bit and play some ball,” she said.
Utah (21-5, 5-1) didn’t take long getting on the scoreboard to start the game.
In the top of the first, Arizona starting pitcher Ali Blanchard walked Aliya Belarde in four pitches. Belarde would steal second before Blanchard walked Bonstrom. Julia Jimenez would hit an RBI double, scoring Belarde.
The Wildcats were fortunate to get out of the first half inning down 1-0 as Sophie Jacquez popped out on a foul ball near the third base line, and Bonstrom was picked off at third to end the inning. She was initially called safe, but Arizona was successful in its challenge to the call.
Jasmine Perezchica singled up the middle, outrunning the throw to first to begin the bottom of the first inning. Perezchica got called out at second when Blaise Biringer made it to first on a fielder’s choice. Allie Skaggs then walked to put two runners on base. With two outs, Olivia DiNardo hit an infield single that loaded the bases, setting up a grand slam by Dakota Kennedy that cleared the bases and put the Wildcats up 4-1.
Netz took over on the mound after Blanchard walked the first runner in the second, and closed out the inning without allowing a hit.
The Wildcats continued to have success at the plate in the bottom of the second when Sophia Carroll singled to right field. After Taylor Biehl singled to the left field on the following at-bat, Sydney Sandez replaced starting pitcher Mariah Lopez on the mound for Utah.
Perezchica bunted and made it to first on an errant throw that scored Carroll. A single for Biringer on the next at-bat brought Biehl home to stretch the Wildcats’ lead to 6-1 with no outs.
Then it was Allie Skaggs‘ chance to shine when she hit an RBI single up the middle that scored Perezchica, and put the Wildcats up 7-1. Arizona could not score thereafter despite having two runners on base with no outs.
Then it was Utah’s turn from the plate.
The Utes loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the third before Shelbi Ortiz hit a two-RBI single to close the gap to 7-3. Abby Dayton followed Ortiz’s at-bat with a two-RBI double that brought the Utes within two runs at 7-5 going into the bottom of the third.
Arizona gave itself some breathing room in the bottom of the fourth when Skaggs hit a two-RBI double that bounced off the center field wall, scoring Perezchica and Biringer to stretch the lead to 9-5. Netz followed Skaggs with a two-run homer to left-center field, extending Arizona’s lead to 11-5.
An RBI single from Jacquez in the top of the fifth prompted a pitching change for Arizona. After Silva took over for Netz, Dayton doubled to left centerfield, scoring two more to push the score to 11-8.
Silva gifted Utah two runs later in the inning after she threw a pitch over the head of Izzy Pacho, scoring Hailee White from third base. The soft toss from Pacho back to Silva near home plate dribbled of Silva and Dayton scored to bring the Utes within one run.
Arizona (20-9, 3-3) next plays Washington (22-6, 3-3) on Friday in Seattle at 5 p.m. Tucson time in the start of a three-game series.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writer Kevin Murphy was born and raised in Tucson, and has followed Arizona Wildcats athletics since childhood. Murphy is a journalist product manager with the Green Valley News & the Sahuarita Sun. He has a bachelor’s degree from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU.