Strong pitching from the Colorado State Rams softball team led the way for their series win over the San Jose State Spartans over the weekend. The Rams (18-13, 6-6 MW) took two out of three games to move into a tie for third place in the Mountain West, two and a half games back of Utah State (25-9, 8-3 MW).
“As a staff they have been working really hard,” head coach Jen Fisher said of the pitchers’ performance. “San Jose State has a history of being a very good and disciplined hitting team…the fact that we turned so many double plays and the pitchers got so many ground balls, I was really proud of their performance.”
The Rams started out the weekend on Friday with a 5-4 victory over the Spartans (24-14, 4-5 MW) behind the pitching of junior Kaylynn Pierce. She allowed only two hits through six innings with one unearned scored before a rough seventh inning. CSU had just gone up 5-1 in the top of the seventh after junior Hannah McCorkhill launched a two-run home run to left center.
“Hannah’s was a no doubter off the bat and obviously we needed that insurance,” Fisher said. “That was really an important home run for us.”
In the bottom of the inning Pierce started by getting her fifth strikeout of the afternoon and looked to be closing the game out. A triple and three singles later the Rams found themselves clinging to a one run lead with a runner on first with two outs. Up to bat for the Spartans was reigning Mountain West Player of the Week Chelsea Jenner who came into the series batting .635 in conference play, the highest in the conference.
Pierce was able to get her to ground into a fielder’s choice that got the runner out at second, giving the Rams the 5-4 win. Her stat line for the complete game performance was three earned runs off of six hits, six walks and five strikeouts.
The five runs scored by the Rams also came off of SJSU’s two best pitchers. Seniors Katelyn Linford and Colette Riggs came into the series both tied for the fourth best ERA in the MW at 2.32. The Rams were able to get three runs off of Linford and two off of Riggs.
An encore performance had to wait however as rain would once again change the schedule around. Saturday’s game was moved to Sunday and the two teams played a doubleheader.
Sophomore Bridgette Hutton pitched a complete game shutout against SJSU. Hutton came into the game with the highest ERA for the Rams at 4.63 and she had given up the most hits on the year with 93 allowed. The Spartans could not figure out Hutton’s nasty changeup and were not able to get any offense going behind their three total hits in the Rams’ 5-0 victory.
The only offense in this game came in the first inning when junior Madison Kilcrease hit an inside the park home run with the bases loaded on a ball that rolled all the way to the corner of left field. That trip around the bases paired with a RBI single by senior Taryn Arcarese, who helped out Bridgette Hutton on defense with two inning-ending double plays in the game, was more than enough for the Rams.
The final game of the weekend turned into a pitching duel between Riggs and the Rams’ entire staff. Junior Larisa Petakoff struggled in another start, allowing two hits in the first inning and two walks and a single in the second that brought home a run and pushed coach Fisher to switch to Pierce.
The Rams responded quickly with two runs of their own in the top of the third after a RBI double down the right field line by sophomore Amber Nelson and a RBI single by to left by Kilcrease to score Nelson and go up 2-1.
From there Pierce was firing like she was in game one of the series until the bottom of the fifth when the Spartans hit back-to-back singles and a double off of her to score one run and put runners on second and third with one out. Fisher made a second pitching change to Hutton, but the first batter she saw singled to right field to give the Spartans the 3-2 advantage. Riggs shut down the Rams with six straight outs in the sixth and seventh inning to close out the 3-2 victory for SJSU.
Bridgette Hutton pitched well over the weekend with eight and two thirds innings pitched and allowed only four hits with no earned runs. Kilcrease had a great offensive weekend with five RBI and senior Haley Hutton, the CSU career leader in runs scored, continued to get on base and score runs, crossing home plate four times over the weekend to lead the Rams.
“I think we are doing a good job against adversity,” Fisher said about the status of her team heading into their biggest weekend of the season. “I am starting to see a little bit more consistency…I think it’s nice to be in control of your own destiny a little bit, but it would be great if we can keep taking it one game at a time, just win every series and if we can do that, that is going to put us in a good position.”
The series victory sets up a big week for the Rams as they return home after two straight weekends on the road. Up first will be a pair of home games against the University of Northern Colorado Bears as the two teams make up their postponed game from Feb. 28 and will play the originally scheduled game on Tuesday, April 11. After that the Rams will host the MW-leading Utah State Aggies in a three-game series starting Thursday. With a sweep the Rams could take control of first place as the action begins at 4 p.m. MT on Thursday.
Collegian sports reporter Austin White can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ajwrules44