Utah Utes softball season ends after just 3 games in the NCAA Championship tournament

The Utes lost Sunday in a rematch against South Carolina.

Utah outfielder Abby Dayton, shown running the bases during a game last season, scored the Utes' only run in their 5-1 loss to South Carolina on Sunday in Durham, N.C. (AP Photo/Tyler Tate)

Sometimes one swing of the bat is all it takes.

The Utah Utes softball team entered Sunday’s game against South Carolina coming off a win over Morgan State on Saturday after starting the NCAA Championship tournament with a loss to Gamecocks. It was an opportunity for the Utes to not only keep their season going, but also exact some revenge on South Carolina.

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

“What this team accomplished this year, especially late in the season, showed a whole lot about what their talent level is,” coach Amy Hogue said after the finale in Durham, N.C.

Utah finished with a 35-22 overall record in a season that started slowly and was mired by injuries to several key players. Once the team got healthy, though, the wins started coming and the Utes were able to make the NCAA Championship tournament for the second straight year.

The Utes will lose eight players to graduation, including Mariah Lopez and Haley Denning — two fixtures of the program for the last several years. Denning spent six seasons with the Utes.

“I knew I made the right choice coming here,” Denning said. “No other place I’d rather spend six years at.”

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

“They just have our backs more than any coach that 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 and drove her in later.

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

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