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Hannah Flippen isn't looking at this weekend's Pac-12 series against Washington as the end.
She may be honored with the six other seniors who have seen Utah softball rise from a Pac-12 afterthought into a program ranked in the top-15 nationally, and she may be playing her last conference game in Dumke Stadium. But with Alumni Weekend in town and NCAA playoffs ahead, there's plenty of ways to frame what expects to be an emotional weekend.
"I see it as a celebration of Utah softball, really," she said. "I'm looking forward to seeing family and some of the alumni here, but to me, it's still the middle of the season."
And there's still work to be done and no one does work like Hannah Flippen.
She's leading the Pac-12 in batting average in conference play (.427) and is one of only two players with an on-base percentage over .500 (a league-leading .516). She's hammered eight home runs, driven in 42 runs and even has a team-best 10 stolen bases.
It could add up to another season as Pac-12 player of the year, which she won last year. But to Flippen, having a second season as one of the Pac-12's premier players isn't only a reflection of what she's done: It's about the team around her as well, which enters the final weekend third in the Pac-12 (33-11, 13-6) and in contention to host an NCAA regional.
"Our whole lineup has been better this year," Flippen said. "Just top to bottom. It seems like we have a different person getting the hits every week."
She has a point: Five Utes are batting better than .300 for the team ranked the 18th-best scoring offense in the country. With Alyssa Barerra (.362) in front of Flippen and Anissa Urtez (.392, fifth in the Pac-12) and Bridget Castro (.312) behind her, there's a lot to worry about.
But Utah's lineup gravitates around Flippen, who is both the best power hitter and the best contact hitter on the team. With a few weeks of her career left, she already owns the Utah record for runs scored. While teams tried to pitch around her last year, this year with Barerra and Urtez on either side of her, there's no hiding for a pitcher.
In fact, coach Amy Hogue said, opponents have pitched to her more than Flippen expected.
"It's hard sometimes when you expect to be pitched around, because suddenly they're pitching to you and you get in an 0-2 count," she said. "That's happned to Hannah a lot this year, but she's dealt with it really well."
It would be hard to expect any less from the 5-foot-4 second baseman, who established herself as a feared hitter and respected fielder as a freshman, earning all-conference honors. Hogue said it's a tribute to Flippen's work ethic and perfectionism that she's found a way to build on her success every year.
"She's always competing with herself," Hogue said. "She's not OK for settling for average in any area."
For the returning All-American, that extends to the classroom. She recently earned a scholarship to go to grad school her plan is to earn her master's degree at Utah and become a teacher. And she's not necessarily going to be absent from the softball program: "I'll still be hanging around the team, helping out."
Other opportunities abound as well on the field: Flippen will likely spend another summer with the national softball team. She can also play in the National Pro Fastpitch league for the Scrap Yard Dawgs, who drafted her 17th overall last month (NCAA rules prohibit her from talking about it before her college career is over).
She's looking forward to continuing to help nurture the program her class has helped grow. But again, remember this her time is not over yet.
About Hannah Flippen
• Three-time all-Pac-12 honoree
• 2016 Pac-12 player of the year and first-team All- American
• Highest career batting average and most runs scored in Utah program history
• Leading Pac-12 in batting average (.427) and on-base percentage (.516) in conference games
Utah softball vs. Washington
P At Dumke Stadium
Schedule • 7 p.m. Thursday, 6 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday
TV • All games on Pac-12 Mountain