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WCWS Game 4: Holtorf’s Bat Lifts Washington Over Utah

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Rylee Holtorf doesn’t hit many home runs. But when she does, they usually come against Utah.

The sophomore shortstop hit the go-ahead home run and finished with three RBI to lead No. 7 Washington to a 4-1 victory over No. 15 Utah on Friday afternoon in a weather-delayed opener for both teams at the Women’s College World Series.

Facing an early deficit, Holtorf belted a two-run home run off Utah’s Mariah Lopez in the second inning to give the Huskies a lead they wouldn’t surrender.

The home run was only the fifth of the season and sixth of Holtorf’s college career, but three have come against Utah, including two against Lopez.

“I think just going to compete at every at-bat is kind of the same mindset,” Holtorf said. “The stage is a little bigger, but it’s the same, getting in the box, same routine, all of that. Just competing the best I can.”

The Pac-12 opponents were supposed to play on Thursday night at USA Hall of Fame Stadium, but they had to wait a few more hours after rain and lightning scuttled the plans.

Both teams will now have a shorter rest than the other six teams in the WCWS, with Utah facing elimination tonight against No. 6 Oklahoma State and Washington playing No. 3 Florida State on Saturday night.

“That’s going to be tough. But like these guys said, they’re tough,” Utah head coach Amy Hogue said as she sat next to Mariah Lopez and Kendall Lundberg. “The last time we got beat, we killed somebody. I mean, I think that the pressure’s off, if they felt any pressure today. It’s off. Now they’re playing for a day off and some more fun together.”

Washington (44-13) was making its 15th WCWS appearance in program history and first since 2019, while Utah (42-15) was making its sixth WCWS appearance and first since in 30 years.  

The teams were meeting for the fifth time this season. The Huskies won the regular-season series in Seattle with two victories while Utah beat UW in the Pac-12 Tournament.

The rubber match came on the sport’s biggest stage, and Holtorf continued to have Utah’s number at the plate.

The Utes once again gave the ball to Lopez for her ninth straight start. In her six previous starts in the NCAA tournament, the junior lefty had a 1.30 ERA with 35 strikeouts in 32.1 innings. Lopez split her previous two starts against UW this season, giving up four combined runs. The Huskies matched that total in six innings on seven hits.

Freshman Ruby Meylan and junior Lindsay Lopez combined to throw a three-hitter for Washington. But the Utes had their chances, stranding nine runners on base and going just 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position.

Lindsay Lopez earned the win, giving up one hit with two strikeouts and one walk in 3.2 innings of relief.

“I just think for her, she’s really realizing the success she can have is in her. It’s her. It’s not where she is, it’s who she is,” Washington head coach Heather Tarr said. “That’s been really cool to watch her really take ownership of that. I’m excited to see her go through this, but also go through another year with us.”

Meylan, who gave up one run on two hits with four walks and one strikeout in 3.1 innings, worked through some early nerves.

Utah put two runners on with one out in the first inning after a walk by Meylan and an error by fifth-year senior second baseman Baylee Klingler. It was the first error of the tournament for the Huskies. But Meylan got a strikeout and groundout to end the threat.

In the second inning, Utah senior Haley Denning hit a chopper over Meylan’s head to beat the shift and used her speed to stretch it into a double. Sophomore Kendall Lundberg drove Denning home with an RBI double down the right field line for a 1-0 Utah lead. 

But Holtorf answered for the Huskies in the bottom half. Following a four-pitch walk to SilentRain Espinoza, she turned on a curve ball and sent it over the wall in left to give UW a 2-1 lead.

Lindsay Lopez came on in relief for the Huskies in the fourth inning following a walk by Meylan. The Utes loaded the bases with two outs for Julia Jimenez, who hit a grand slam in the Super Regional. But Lindsay Lopez got Jimenez to pop out to first to escape the jam.

Holtorf nearly hit another home run in the fourth inning, but it sailed just foul. Instead, she settled for a two-out RBI single to center. Avery Hobson, who was pinch running for Kelly Lynch, got into scoring position by stealing second base. 

The Huskies added an insurance run in the sixth inning on a sacrifice fly Olivia Johnson. Fittingly, Holtorf made the final out of the game to secure the win.

“Kind of a surreal feeling being out there. But it feels good to get that done, have the W done, be in the winners bracket,” Holtorf said. “Know that we’re not done; we have more business to do.”

Player of the Game

Rylee Holtorf, Washington

The sophomore continued to give the Utah pitching staff nightmares. She finished 3 for 3 with three RBI, including the go-ahead two-run home run in the second inning. The home run was her third against Utah this season. She’s hit only two against every other team on Utah’s schedule.

Sweet treat

If the Utes fight off elimination against Oklahoma State, they will get a special reward beyond just the chance to play another game.

“We threw in ice cream at that Braum’s place. If we win tonight, we’re going straight there through the drive-through with the bus,” Hogue said. “We’re going to roll down each window and take our orders.” 

Up Next

  • Utah plays No. 6 Oklahoma State tonight at 9:30 ET (ESPN) in an elimination game.
  • Washington plays No. 3 Florida State on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET (ESPN) with a spot in the semifinals on the line.