Buchanan homer, Nelson’s hot bat lift CSU over UNC

Austin White

The Colorado State Rams were able to escape Greeley with a win over Northern Colorado Tuesday after UNC tied the game late at five in the fifth inning. Sophomores Amber Nelson and Lauren Buchanan each brought home runs in the top of the sixth to give the Rams an 8-5 victory.

“That really gave us the lift we needed,” head coach Jen Fisher said in a statement. “They were challenging us and making things difficult for us and Lauren’s home run helped give Kaylynn the confidence she needed heading into the seventh inning that she could be aggressive.”

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Once again, everything started for the Rams in the first inning when they scored two runs in the first frame for the sixth straight game. Junior Hannah McCorkhill walked, which set the stage for Nelson to hit her fifth home run of the season to center field.

CSU would go on to add two more runs in the fourth inning when freshman Taylor Ward scored on a passed ball and senior Haley Hutton roped a single up the middle to bring home junior pitcher Larisa Petakoff.

The defense would slip up in the bottom of the fourth though, as Petakoff walked the first batter up and then Ward made an error in right field to put runners on first and second with one out. Petakoff then gave up a double that scored a runner and coach Jen Fisher decided to swap her out for Kaylynn Pierce, the Mountain West leader in ERA coming into the matchup.

Pierce got the first batter she faced to strikeout, but then struggled to hit her spots. It would start with a balk with runners on second and third that brought home a run followed by a walk. Pierce would then throw a wild pitch by Nelson, bringing home another run and putting the Bears within one of the Rams at 4-3. The rally would end there as Pierce got the next batter to fly out to right.

Buchanan would grab an RBI single in the top of the fifth, but Pierce would continue to be inconsistent. She walked the first batter in the fifth, struck out the next, then gave up a two-run home run to center field to tie the game at five. Pierce would shake it off well by striking out the next two batters looking.

From there, Nelson would once again pull through as she hit a single to left field to bring home Haley Hutton and put the Rams up 6-5. Buchanan put the game away with a two-run home run to left-center to put the Rams up for good at 8-5. Nelson and Buchanan each finished with three RBIs for the game.

“It was good for us. We looked confident,” Fisher said in a statement. “We hit ourselves out of some innings by being either too aggressive or not aggressive enough. We were playing with confidence, but we just needed some better execution at times. There were frustrating moments, but we remained in control. Our pitching was confident in our defense and vice versa.”

Thanks to a 3-for-4 performance at the plate, Nelson has now pushed her batting average up to .462 and has a slugging percentage of .897. She leads the team in both categories and also leads in on base percentage at .593.

Colorado State will host Maine (1-4), the defending American East champions, and the Wisconsin Badgers (15-2), who are receiving votes in both the coach’s poll and USA Softball poll, in the second Colorado State Classic this weekend, March 10-12. The competition will begin for the Rams on Friday at 3 p.m. against Maine.

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

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