Although the season ended on a disappointing note, the Ute softball team had a successful season overall, finishing with a winning record and a third-place finish in the Mountain West Conference after being picked for last-place in the six-team league.

In fact the Utes were challenging for the league title, up until the final week when they finished off the season with four straight losses.

"We were right in the hunt until the last week," said first-year coach Amy Hogue. "We surpassed some people's expectations."

A former player at Utah, Hogue wanted to bring a new mindset to the program and get the most out of her players' abilities.

"We had the talent, but didn't understand what to do with it," Hogue said. "We had our ups and downs, but we got a foothold going into next season."

The Utes will miss four-year all-MWC performer Diana Phillips, along with starters Devina Quintero, Kristie Keller, Kelly Matthews and Meghan Crouse.

However, several top players return, led by Kara Foster, who topped the team with 18 home runs, 39 RBIs and a .781 slugging percentage, while batting .342. She'll return return for her junior season and may be moved from first base back to the outfield, according to Hogue.

Other returnees include Angie Boardman, who was third on the team with a .321 batting average and infielders Sharee Fonoti and Stacy Hemingway and part-time starters Laura Dahlberg, Andrea Hoffman and Bonnie Muir.

Pitching should be in good hands with both starters back and two incoming pitchers that Hogue is excited about.

Ashley Smuda, a transfer from Temple, pitched two no-hitters this year and finished with an 18-13 mark and a 2.76 ERA. Brittany Parker, a freshman from Murray High was 10-14 with a 4.59 ERA.

Joining the team in 2008-09 are seven new players including three players from Salt Lake Community College, Lindsey Palmer, Brooke Olson and Jasey Jensen.

Palmer, who prepped at Tooele, earned first-team all-American honors and was the Region Pitcher of the Year, while Olson and Jensen were both first-team all-region players.

Besides pitching, Palmer may also play outfield because of her strong hitting. The other new pitcher is Joni Cook, an incoming freshman from Eagle, Idaho.

Other incoming recruits are Hannah Clements (Poway, Calif./Poway HS), Haylee Hoch (Fremont HS) and Tiare Palauni (Taylorsville HS).

Hogue wants to build her team around pitching and defense and feels she'll have four strong pitchers on the 2009 staff in Smuda, Parker, Palmer and Cook.

"We're trying to set a trend and have too many pitchers around here," she said.

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