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CSU preps for cold home opener against UNC

Ram Field is set to make its season debut Tuesday as Colorado State and the University of Northern Colorado take the field.

Sophomore catcher Amber Nelson has been at the forefront of what the Rams are trying to accomplish at the plate. She leads the team in most offensive categories which include batting average (.391), slugging percentage (.739), on base percentage (.559) and runs batted in with eight.

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Nelson has been batting towards the top of the lineup in the second or third spot and sophomore Lauren Buchanan and Hannah McCorkhill are right behind her and is producing as well. McCorkhill hit two home runs in the team’s first five games in the Texas Classic to start the season. That matches her season total from last year.

Buchanan also has a home run and has brought home seven runs. McCorkhill also has seven RBIs to bring this trio’s total to 22, which is more than half of the team’s total runs (36).

However, those RBIs do not just appear out of nowhere; they require the team to find a way on base and that is where the duo of Haley Hutton and Hayleigh Evans have been so effective. Both Hutton and Evans boast batting averages at .350 or above.

Hutton leads the team in runs scored with eight and has the most hits with 10 and an OBS of .543, which is second on the team. Evans, batting down in the order, has been a spark with her five runs and seven hits.

“They are doing a nice job for us in games,” coach Jen Fisher said on the team’s offensive success. “But if we can just get them a little bit more consistent…I feel like we’re going to be challenging more on offense.”

It has not been all offense, however, as junior Larisa Petakoff has been dominating opposing lineups. She has started three games and two have been complete game victories, most notably against Maryland where she had zero earned runs.

Petakoff has a 1.53 ERA and a stunning 1.09 WHIP thanks in part to what coach Fisher believes has been her ability to get the first batters of innings back into the dugout.

“This is a young lady who never takes a day off,” Fisher said about Petakoff. “You can’t have a practice that is too hard for Larisa…she is in great physical shape.”

For the team as a whole they sit at 5-4 with two wins over Maryland who was able to take down the then ranked No. 1 Florida Gators a few weeks ago. Three of their four losses have been to top rated teams with one loss to the current No. 12 Minnesota Golden Gophers and two losses on the road against Texas, who is receiving votes in the coach’s poll.

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The team as a whole is hitting .251 for the season, but has missed some opportunities despite the success of the top of the lineup. The Rams have left 73 runners on base in nine games which turns out to be a little more than eight a game.

Defense has been a slight struggle as well with 15 errors through nine games. In their last outing they were shut out by Texas State 3-0 after a third inning that allowed two runs off of three errors. The Rams finished that game with four errors.

Another struggle the Rams might face this season is something that they cannot even control: the weather.

Playing in Colorado the Rams have become familiar with sporadic weather. Last season they were able to play only one conference series as scheduled while the rest either were canceled or postponed. Even the Rams’ senior game last year had to be canceled due to the weather.

Due to last season the team has experience with the threat of March, April or even May storms and coach Fisher believes they can handle whatever curveball Mother Nature throws at them.

“Our team is pretty resilient and very adaptable,” Fisher said.

Fisher added how the team does not really change their approach when facing a cold weather game and attributes their preparation to the team’s equipment. Everyone on the team wears visors to help keep the rain out of their eyes and they have a secret weapon to fight the cold: a heater in the dugout.

“You don’t get chilled down to the bone,” Fisher said. “Sometimes it is worse for the fans than it is the players.”

Weather permitting, the Rams will be playing UNC at 3 p.m., but the forecast is calling for temperatures below freezing and rules state that the game time temperature must be above 32 degrees. Snow is also in the forecast, but it is Colorado and anything can change.

Collegian sports reporter Austin White can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @ajwrules44

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