Colorado State came into the weekend one game back of first place in the Mountain West and left looking up at the standings.
After dropping two of three to the New Mexico Lobos (18-13, 4-2 MW) the Rams (16-12, 4-5 MW) now sit in a tie for fifth and are two games back of Utah State (23-8, 6-3 MW) in first.
The weekend started out well for the Rams on Friday with some offensive fireworks coming from unusual places. Sophomore and junior pitchers Bridgette Hutton and Kaylynn Pierce proved that on Friday in the Rams’ 12-2 mercy rule victory that pitchers can hit too.
Hutton hit a double to right center that brought home two in the second inning. The designated player came out for an encore in the third with the bases loaded when she singled to center field and brought home two more runs, giving the Rams a 5-0 lead after three innings.
Pierce joined the pitching power at the plate in the sixth inning. She gave the Rams a 10-2 advantage when she hit a double to left field that brought home Madison Kilcrease from first and one other run.
“We were really excited about our pitchers getting our offense going for us,” head coach Jen Fisher said. “They are good athletes and that is what they are capable of.”
Haley Hutton wasted no time putting the game away when she tripled two batters after Pierce, bringing the pitcher home. Hutton then scored on a wild pitch by the Lobos and sent the game to 12-2, forcing the Lobos to score at least three runs in the bottom of the sixth to avoid the mercy rule.
Those three runs did not come as Pierce (7-1) shut the Lobos down, finishing the game with five strikeouts and only one earned run off of four hits and one walk.
Rain pushed game two of the series to Sunday for a double-header.
Game two was a bad defensive outing for CSU. Two errors in the third inning gave the Lobos four unearned runs and a lead the Rams could not come back from in the 7-3 loss.
The defense stiffened up in the third game, but pitching was the Rams’ downfall this time. Pierce started the game after her dominance in game one on Friday, but the Lobos made adjustments by quickly scoring three runs in the first and two runs in the second. Those five runs pushed coach Fisher to make the switch to junior Larisa Petakoff.
“She has been doing a real good job for us. I think what happened was their team made some really good adjustments,” Fisher said on Pierce’s different outcomes in game one and three. “That is the mark of a good program. You get beat and you come back.”
However, the Rams did go down that easy as they stormed back in the fourth inning and tied the game up at five. After one RBI single by Kilcrease freshman Corina Gamboa stayed hot by ripping a single up the middle and scored two. Buchanan matched Gamboa later in the inning with a single of her own to right field that tied the game up.
Petakoff and the Rams then gave the lead right back in the bottom of the fifth after a leadoff double by the new Mountain West leader in batting average, Shelbie Franc. From there Casados singled to bring home Franc and took the wind out of the Rams’ sails.
CSU was able to tie it up again in the top of the sixth, but once again the Lobos answered with two runs. The Lobos outhit the Rams 15-11 in the game as they went on to win 8-6.
Nelson was able to hit her 10th home run of the season over the weekend, but she lost the lead in batting average as it dropped to .447.
“It’s a humbling experience,” Fisher said on the change from winning game one easily to struggling in games two and three. “We go in one day and hit spots and changing speeds and playing good defense…(games two and three) was almost a reverse.”
The Rams will hit the road again next week when they take on San Jose State (23-12, 3-3 MW) for a three game series. The Spartans currently sit in third place in the Mountain West and are coming off a 1-2 series loss against San Diego State. Game one is set for Friday, April 7 at 12 p.m. MT.
Collegian sports reporter Austin White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ajwrules44