Colorado State blanks UNC to open series

Luke Zahlmann

The CSU Rams softball team had an unblemished Tuesday afternoon against UNC, both in the win column and on the scoreboard, sweeping the double-header 3-0 and 7-0.

The Rams (20-13, 6-6 Mountain West) rode pitching and electric defense to a 3-0 victory in the first game. Larisa Petakoff allowed only four hits while striking out five in her complete game shutout. Petakoff was backed by an error-free defense.

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“(The key to my success) was really staying ahead in the count,” Petakoff said. “Making sure I got the first outs and pitching whatever coach calls.”

Petakoff took advantage of a low zone from the home plate umpire and induced several ground balls, of which all resulted in outs.

“(The umpire) was calling a lot of low pitches,” Petakoff said. “So I tried to work to what she was calling because I know it’s harder to hit.”

On the other end, Hannah McCorkhill had a perfect game from the plate going 3-3 and driving in two of the Rams three runs.

“I just attacked,” McCorkhill said. “I didn’t have a very good warmup but the coaches were working with me, so I just let everything go and just attacked at the plate.”

The game was a continuation of a game that was cancelled after the top of the first in early February. The Rams began the game with the bases loaded, and McCorkhill led the game off with an RBI single that started that turned out to be more than enough run support for Petakoff in the circle.

In the second game, the Rams followed a similar formula and utilized great games from Alison Petty and Bridgette Hutton, who relieved Petty in the top of the third. The pitching duo allowed a total of five hits, but also walked six batters.

“We never want to take UNC lightly,” head coach Jen Fisher said. “They have a really hard working club and a well-balanced one with speed and power.”

The Rams pitchers controlled the traffic on the bases with a little help from their defense. In the third and fourth inning, the Rams had two diving plays, a put-out at home thanks to a strong throw by Haley Hutton and a pickoff at second from Lauren Buchanon.

“I think we played great defense,” Fisher said. “We had the back-pick that was really a clutch play as well as the base running error at third that we took advantage of. I thought we played very heads up.”

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CSU rode the momentum created by the defensive plays to ignite the offense and scored a combined five runs in the fifth and sixth inning.

“I think we used those plays going into the bottom half of the inning,” Fisher said. “We actually don’t use defensive plays to our advantage very often, but I thought we did today because (the plays were) coming from everywhere.”

The Rams will host the Bears for a series finale Thursday. The Rams will then welcome Utah State who leads the Mountain West. Colorado State will have an opportunity to jump three spots in Mountain West standings with a sweep of the Aggies. CSU sits in fourth behind New Mexico (5-4), Boise State (6-6) and Utah State (8-3).

“We have to pitch good, hit good, and play good defense,” McCorkhill said. “We just got to have everything working and if we do that, we’ll be successful.”

Collegian sports reporter Luke Zahlmann can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @Lukezahlmann