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Utah softball: Utes earn 11 seed, will host NCAA regional field that includes BYU

Published May 16, 2017 6:35 pm

Softball • WCC champion BYU is also in the regional.
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The Utes are going to the postseason, but they don't have to travel any farther than their own backyard.

For the first time ever, Utah softball (33-14) will be hosting an NCAA regional starting Thursday at Dumke Stadium. The field includes first-round opponent Fordham, as well as Mississippi State and regional rival BYU.

Senior second baseman Hannah Flippen said the anxiety she felt watching the selection show on Sunday night was tough to handle, but ultimately worth it.

"My stomach was turning the whole time, on my toes, on the edge of my seat," she said. "But that was a goal that we set for ourselves. Know that we're hosting, just being able to play a couple more games at home is a big deal."

The Utes were given the 11th overall seed following their fourth straight season of 30 or more wins and a fifth-place finish in the Pac-12. Utah has been to the NCAA Tournament for three straight seasons, last year winning a regional in Lexington, Ky., before falling in a Super Regional at Florida State.

Despite home-field advantage for the first weekend, the bracket presents a challenging path for Utah's goal of making it to the College World Series for the first time since 1994.

The Utes will have to contend with Fordham (45-15), winner of the Atlantic 10, in the opener, then have to face either Mississippi State (36-20) or West Coast Conference winner BYU (43-11). Utah lost to BYU, 4-3, in their only meeting early in the season.

Should Utah win its regional, it could face a potential Super Regional against No. 6 seed Washington, which swept the Utes this weekend.

But the Utes will have the crowd at their backs in the regional, which coach Amy Hogue cited as a big deal.

"I just think there's so many emotions to these kids, and they thrive on excitement," she said. "I'm excited to have that energy to drive them and use that. They've felt the opposite of that in the past at other regionals. Now the whole stadium is going to be shouting for us."

The Utes began the week with the No. 28 batting average in the country (.309) and the No. 30 ERA (2.10). They have two standout pitchers — Miranda Viramontes, who has a 1.23 ERA, and Katie Donovan, who is one of nine Pac-12 pitchers with more than 100 strikeouts (116).

The lineup is led by Flippen, the defending Pac-12 player of the year who led the conference as a senior with a .427 average and a .515 on-base percentage. Five other Utes are hitting above .300 this year.

Utah's recent results haven't gone well: The Utes lost five of their last six games of the regular season. But the team is viewing the upcoming postseason as a fresh start.

"We're throwing our rear view mirror out the window," Flippen said. "We're just going for it."

Utah is making its 16th NCAA Tournament appearance, and the program has a 21-32 record in the tourney. The last time Utah hosted a postseason regional was in 1976, when college softball played in the AIAW tournament.


Twitter: @kylegoon —

Salt Lake regional

P Thursday's games • BYU vs. Mississippi State, 4 p.m. • Utah vs. Fordham, 6:30 p.m.






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