Dayton, Denning and Lopez lead the parade of All-Pac-12 selections for softball

SAN FRANCISCO – A year after setting a new program record by earning eight all-conference selections, the University of Utah softball team nearly matched that mark by having seven student-athletes recognized by the Pac-12 when the league held its annual postseason on Tuesday awards.

Utah’s list of honorees from all competitions was topped by Abby Dayton, Haley Denning And Maria Lopez, all of whom were named to the All-Pac-12 First-Team. This makes for back-to-back seasons of Dayton and Lopez making the first team, the first time the Utes have had multiple players in a row make first-team appearances since joining the conference in 2012. Dayton is also the first player from Utah. once picked for the league’s first team as a freshman and sophomore.

For Denning, this is Denning’s fourth straight year being recognized by the Pac-12, making her just the fifth Ute in school history to earn all-conference recognition four times. She was also rewarded with a spot on the Pac-12’s All-Defensive Team.

It represented the Utes on the all-conference second team Kaylah Nelsen And Aliya Belardewhile Shonty Passi And Reese Lee were among the selections for the Pac-12’s All-Freshman Team. This is the first time since 2017 that multiple rookies have been chosen for the freshman roster.

Dayton can add the honor to a list that also includes winning the Pac-12 batting title with a .444 average, the first time a Ute has done so since 2017. The league’s leading hitter can also claim first place in the conference standings on-base percentage and triple. Dayton’s 66 hits and 23 walks also placed her in the top 10 in the conference in those statistics, with a perfect fielding percentage of 1.000. Her 2024 season included a 33-game on-base streak, the second-longest in the country, and she had seven three-hit games, the most by a Ute in a single season since 2021.

By winning nine of her last 10 decisions, a stretch that has also seen her build a 1.23 ERA, Lopez has climbed to the top of the conference standings, with her 21 wins tied for the most in the Pac-12. That total makes her the first Ute in more than a decade to post consecutive 20-win seasons and she also owns the second-highest strikeout total and fourth-best ERA in the league. Her 201 punchouts and 21 wins both rank her in the top 15 nationally, and she’s also won a Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week award along the way.

After three straight years on the All-Pac-12 Second-Team, Denning made the jump to the first team by putting together a season in which no one in the Pac-12 has scored more points than her 45. includes 69 hits and 22 steals, the league’s second-highest total in every statistic and she owns the conference’s fourth-best batting average at .418. The 15-game hit streak she strung together in March and April is a team best, and she’s also tied for the team lead in multi-hit games with 20. The Arizona native has a place in the team for her job completely defending team conquered. in the field with a perfect fielding percentage and five total assists.

Nelsen grabbed a starting spot in February and never let go, thanks in part to her total of 15 doubles, the second-most in the Pac-12 and the most by a Utah hitter since 2018. She also ranks in the Pac-10’s top 10 12. Conference in hits, with 62, batting average of .380, and RBIs with 37. Nelsen is the nation’s eighth-highest strikeout player, thanks to a rate of one punchout per 40.8 at-bats, and that figure has also helped her post a 24-game on-base streak, the third-longest in the conference. In the field, Nelsen has made just two errors in more than 150 chances at first base.

For Belarde, this means back-to-back all-league selections after earning a first-team nod in 2023. The Utah second baseman is one of several players tied for first in the conference in runs scored with Denning after crossing home plate. 44 times. She also ranks in the top 10 in hits, triples and stolen bases and owns her team’s second-highest total in home runs, one of which was a grand slam at ASU on April 12. She also has a Pac-12 Player of the Week award for her credit, which she received on April 8.

No Utah player has swung a better bat lately than Passi, who is hitting a team-best .487 in her last thirteen games, including her first two collegiate home runs. She was also hit safely in her last nine games, a hot streak that helped her take home Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors on April 29. For the season, Passi posted a stat line with seven doubles, which ranked her third on the team. , and her on-base percentage of .365 ranks fifth. On the field, she is second on the team in assists with 49.

Lee was a steady presence both at the plate and in the field for the Utes, appearing in 46 games during her first season in Salt Lake City. The Arizona native hit .273 in Pac-12 play in 2024 and she is also second on the team among freshmen in hits and RBIs and she has stolen four bases without being caught. Her work in the field includes four assists and 41 putouts.

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