KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Utah's Katie Donovan recorded six strikeouts and retired the first 11 batters she faced on the way to guiding the Utah Utes (35-17) to a 6-1 victory over the Virginia Tech Hokies (34-22) in game one of the NCAA Knoxville Regional Friday afternoon at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium.
Donovan, who improved to 17-8 on the season, gave up just one hit and did not walk a batter in her four innings of work. She struck out the first batter she faced on the day and then after working a ground out to the first batter in the top of the second inning, she went on to record five straight strikeouts to end the second and third innings.
Kayce Nieto gave up Utahs only run a solo home run to Virginia Techs Lauren Gaskill in the top of the sixth inning and Sammy Cordova entered the game with two away in the sixth and got the Utes out of a jam. Cordova then gave up just one hit in the top of the seventh, but then got Vanessa Gonzalez to ground out to first base to end the game and secure Utahs first NCAA Regional win since 2006.
Kate Dickman went 2-for-3 on Friday with a solo home and Bridget Castro had just one hit in the contest, but it turned out to be the game winner a two-run home run to center field, which gave Utah a 3-0 lead at the time in the bottom of the third inning.
Seven of Utah's players in the starting line-up recorded at least one hit in the game, while six different players came home to score, as well.
Dickman's solo shot gave Utah an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning and then just a few innings later, Castro extended Utahs lead to 3-0 with her two-run shot. Kristen Stewart followed with a double and she later came home to score on Heather Bowens RBI single up the middle to give the Utes a 4-0 lead.
Utah padded its lead with a RBI double from Shelby Pacheco in the bottom of the fourth inning and then a few plays later after drawing a walk, Maddy Woodard scored on a passed ball to make it a 6-0 game in favor of the Utes.
The Hokies put its first run on the board in the top of the sixth inning with a solo home run from Lauren Gaskill, but after getting two more runners on in the inning, Cordova came in to relieve Nieto and got the first hitter she faced to pop out and end the inning.
The Utes, who won a NCAA Regional game for the first time since defeating Indiana 5-1 back on May 20, 2006, improved to 17-27 all-time in the tournament with Fridays five-run win.
Utah advances to the second round and will face the winner between Tennessee and Longwood on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET/11 a.m. MT.