It was an unblemished 5-0 weekend for Colorado State softball.
The Rams (10-4) won all five of their games in the Colorado State Classic, four of them via shutouts. The wins include two over both Penn State and Buffalo and one over Idaho State.
Each CSU starting pitcher had a shutout with sophomore Kaylynn Pierce recording two of them, her second and third of the year. CSU also scored two runs in the first inning of all five games to continue their success at the beginning of games.
“I think the key has been knowing your plan going up to the plate and executing,” senior shortstop Haley Hutton said on her team’s early game offensive success, “making sure you swing at pitches you are looking for.”
“I think it’s our pre-game preparation,” head coach Jen Fisher said. “They are in a nice rhythm in pre-game batting practice.”
The dominance began against Buffalo on Friday afternoon when sophomore Bridgette Hutton took control of the circle. She threw a complete game shutout with seven strikeouts, zero walks and five hits on only 75 pitches. The offense did their part as well in the first when junior Hannah McCorkhill roped a double to bring home a run and then later scored on an error.
Bridgette Hutton would not stop in the circle, however, as she hit her first career home run — a solo shot — in the fourth inning to put the Rams up 3-0, where the game would finish.
In game two against Penn State, Rams’ ace junior Larisa Petakoff shut down another Big Ten team with her complete game performance. She allowed only four hits with one walk and one strikeout to lower her ERA to 1.11.
Shortstop Haley Hutton did her part in in the infield to help her pitchers. Hutton made a diving catch to her right side on a hard hit line drive and also had an an off-balance throw to first while moving to the left.
“You can’t slow her down,” Fisher said on Hutton’s defense. “She loves the game, she plays with a lot of energy…what you see is what you get with her.”
The offense would match the defense as senior Taryn Arcarese opened up the scoring in the first inning yet again by hitting a triple down the right field line that brought home a run. McCorkhill would launch a solo shot to left field later in the first to give the Rams the only runs they needed for a 4-0 win.
On Saturday the pitching would face their only challenge of the weekend in the seventh inning against Penn State.
Haley Hutton was still putting on a defensive clinic when in the fourth inning she slid to her left to stop a ground ball. She would precede to throw the runner out from her knees.
Later, the Rams would put up three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning after RBI singles from freshman Corina Gamboa and Taylor Ward. Junior Hayleigh Evans brouht home a run as well to give the Rams a 6-2 lead which seemed insurmountable after how well Bridgette Hutton had been pitching.
The Nittany Lions did not give in as the first three batters in the seventh reached base on a walk and two singles to load the bases. Coach Fisher decided to make the switch to Petakoff as Hutton would finish with 4 strikeouts, five walks, nine hits and four earned runs. Petakoff would come in to struggle as well with the first batter she faced knocking a two-run single up the middle to pull within two runs of the Rams.
A sacrifice bunt and another RBI single up the middle put PSU down one with runners on second and third with one out. Petakoff would hit her stride however as she got the Nittany Lions leadoff hitter to groundout to first and then finished the job herself with a groundout to the pitcher and gave the Rams a 6-5 victory.
After that seventh inning it was smooth sailing for the Rams as they won the next two games via 8-0 mercy rulings over Buffalo and Idaho State.
The matchup against Buffalo would start Saturday night, but would be suspended in the middle of the fourth inning due to darkness. The layover would not affect Pierce’s pitching though as she struck out two more Bulls in the top of the fifth to give her eight for the game with only one walk and three hits allowed.
Sophomore Amber Nelson continued her early season success in the second inning when she blasted a three-run home run around the left field foul pole to put the Rams up 6-0. McCorkhill would end the game in the fifth with a sacrifice fly to right field to bring home Haley Hutton which put the Rams up 8-0 and the mercy rule requires an eight run lead after at least five innings.
Pierce’s day was not done as she went to the circle to dominate Idaho State as well. She would pitch all six innings with two strikeouts, one walk, seven hits and no runs allowed.
The Rams struck in the first once again with an RBI single by Nelson and an RBI double by sophomore Lauren Buchanan. McCorkhill hit a three-run home run to left field in the third inning that put the Rams up comfortably 5-0. The Rams would add on a run in the fifth and then two more in the sixth to end the game 8-0.
Overall the Rams’ pitching staff allowed only five runs in five games with 22 strikeouts and only seven walks.
“They are attacking early and often,” Haley Hutton said on her team’s pitching performance this season. “You can tell they are really attacking the zone…they are beginning to trust their defense a little bit more but also trust themselves and their pitching.”
“When you have a shortstop like Haley Hutton, I would just throw it up there and not care,” said Fisher. “I think there is a lot of trust there.”
McCorkhill finished the weekend with a team leading nine RBI and two home runs. Haley Hutton led the team in runs with six while Nelson led in hits with six.
The Rams will be in action next against Northern Colorado when they head to Greeley on Tuesday, March 7. First pitch is scheduled for 4 pm MT.
Collegian sports reporter Austin White can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ajwrules44