Only the weather could stop the Colorado State University softball team (4-0) this weekend at the Texas Classic as the Rams picked up four strong wins before below-freezing temperatures stopped their bid for a sweep of the University of Wisconsin (2-2).
In an event held by the University of Texas (2-2), it could have been the Rams who felt the advantage as they came back in the first game against Wisconsin and never trailed for the rest of the weekend as they strung together wins against the University of Incarnate Word (0-4) and Texas.
The first two at bats on Friday could not have gone much worse for the Rams as the Badgers led off the game with a double by Kelsey Jenkins. A bunt followed where Gabby Sherle reached first and Jenkins scored after an error by CSU catcher Amber Nelson. A flyout scored Sherle, after she stole second and advanced on a single, but the Rams’ Bridget Hutton was able to stop the bleeding there with the help of two strikeouts.
The Rams got half of the deficit back in the top of the second inning when sophomore Haley Donaldson scored on an error. Sophomore Corina Gamboa closed the gap with a home run in the fourth. It was the start of a strong weekend for Gamboa, who had two hits in the game after a disappointing freshman campaign at the plate.
“She’s trying to get a little better launch angles and backspin line drives that have some lift to them,” Coach Jen Fisher said. “She’s made some good adjustments so it’s good to see her hit the ball with that much power. It’s a big field.”
After that, Sherle came back to do more damage in the bottom of the fifth as she singled in a run to make it 3-2. That was it for the Badgers as Larisa Petakoff came in as relief for Hutton and pitched three scoreless innings to earn the win. Ashley Michelena hit a double in the top of the sixth to drive in two runs and cap the scoring on the 4-3 Rams’ win.
“It was time for our program to make a statement win,” Fisher said. “This kind of a win is exactly what I’m looking for.”
Two less exciting matchups followed with the Incarnate Word Cardinals as they failed to keep up with the Rams’ hot bats. The Rams jumped out to a 9-2 lead after three innings behind the power of Donaldson and Gamboa, as both Rams homered in two runs.
Incarnate Word put together a comeback bid after scoring five runs in the top of the fourth and fifth innings, cutting the deficit to two. The Rams, however, proceeded to put up five more runs in the bottom of the fifth and sixth and finished with the 14-9 win over the Cardinals. Hutton grabbed the win in relief after starting for the Rams in their first matchup of the day.
On Saturday, Incarnate Word and the Rams matched up again in a less contested and lower scoring battle. The Rams scored first, in the bottom of the third, when Michelena scored on an error and Nelson drove in two runs on an RBI triple. The Rams shut it down from there as Allison Petty and Petakoff combined to throw a one-hit, one-run game.
Petty got into trouble with her control, but was able to mitigate the damage with a mix of timely strikeouts and ground balls. Despite seven walks, she only allowed one run and was able to get the win after Petakoff closed the Rams’ 6-1 victory.
Finally, the Rams got the Longhorns on Saturday in what turned out to be their last game of the weekend.
Senior Hayleigh Evans started the scoring against the host club with a sacrifice fly in the top of the second inning to score Acosta. After going 0-for-4 in the day’s first game against the Cardinals, Donaldson was back to doing damage with an RBI walk. The Longhorns came right back with two of their own off a double from Bekah Alcozer, but the Rams’ pitching was the story again as Hutton pitched a complete game win and only allowed two runs.
CSU took the lead on a Donaldson single in the fourth and a Hannah McCorkhill three-run home run provided insurance in the top of the seventh. Perhaps demoralized by the suddenly large deficit, the Longhorns went down in order to close out the game.
The last big game of the weekend against Wisconsin was cancelled on Sunday due to below freezing temperatures in Austin. However, with two wins against reigning NCAA tournament teams, a strong offensive showing and mostly dominate pitching, it was certainly a hot start for the Rams.
The Rams will try to keep the win streak going next week as they head to Tucson for the Hillenbrand Invitational hosted by the University of Arizona, where Fisher thinks the team has a chance to take a win against another big program.
“They’re going to have some freak of nature type players; but if we pitch well, we play good defense, we run the bags well, and get some offensive support it’s not really rocket science,” Fisher said. “You just have to really try not to worry about the name on the other job and just do your job and stick to the gameplan.”
Collegian sports reporter Mack Beaulieu can be reached at email@example.com and on twitter @Macknz_james.