The Utah Utes' softball season ends with a loss to South Carolina after a grand slam in the first inning

The Utes lost to South Carolina in a rematch on Sunday.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Haley Denning celebrates after scoring a goal for Utah in the NCAA Softball Super Regionals game between the Utah Utes and the San Diego State Aztecs on Saturday, May 27, 2023.

Sometimes a hit with the bat is enough.

The Utah Utes softball team entered Sunday's game against South Carolina after picking up a win over Morgan State on Saturday after beginning the NCAA Championship Tournament with a loss to the Gamecocks. It was an opportunity for the Utes to not only continue their season but also get revenge on South Carolina.

But with the bases loaded and just one out in the top of the first inning, Gamecocks designated hitter Aniyah Black smashed the ball over the left field wall for a grand slam. Utah never recovered and ended the season 5-1.

“What this team accomplished this year, especially toward the end of the season, showed a lot about their talent level,” said coach Amy Hogue.

Utah finished the season with an overall record of 35-22, which started slowly and was marred by injuries to several key players. However, once the team got healthy again, the winning began and the Utes were able to reach the NCAA Championship Tournament for the second year in a row.

The Utes will lose eight players to graduation, including Mariah Lopez and Haley Denning – two staples of the program over the past few years. Denning spent six seasons with the Utes.

“I knew I made the right decision to come here,” Denning said. “There is no other place I would rather spend six years.”

Lopez spent four seasons with the Utes. She said her relationship with Hogue and pitching coach Paige Parker is special because they care about the players on an individual level.

“They just support us more than any coach I’ve ever played for,” Lopez said.

Sarah Ladd started at pitcher after throwing most of Saturday's game, but was replaced by Lopez in the second inning after giving up the grand slam.

Utah's only run came in the bottom of the sixth inning. Abby Dayton doubled and Sophie Jacquez drove her in later.

The Utes loaded the bases themselves in the first inning, but left all three of those runners on base.

After again scoring just one run on Sunday, Utah has scored just six total runs in its last five games.

Anna Harden

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