CSU softball caps busy week with walk-off weekend

Mack Beaulieu

The Colorado State softball team (15-7) got back on track after a rough stretch going into spring break as they hosted the Colorado State Classic from March 9-11 and the University of Nevada (12-14) in their first conference play of the season over this past weekend, going 7-1 during the stretch.

The stretch included two walk-off home runs, five more wins for pitcher Bridgette Hutton and a series victory over the first conference foe of the season. A strong stretch over lesser teams helped prepare the Rams for conference play.

Ad

girls congratulate pitcher
The team congratulates Junior pitcher Bridgette Hutton for striking out three St. John’s batters during the game on Saturday, March 10. The Rams defeated St. John’s with a score of 5-1. (Matt Begeman | Collegian)

“Nobody rolled over and just handed it to us,” coach Jen Fisher said, “Utah Valley gave us a good run for our money, we had to play really well, we had to hit the ball, we had a lot of adversity with the wind.. So I definitely think it was a good prep for the pre-conference weekend.”

It started off on March 9 with victories over Utah Valley University (7-15) and St. John’s University (7-16).

Utah Valley executed a double steal in the top of the first, but CSU tied it back up in the second on a Sarah Muzik double. Utah Valley came back in the top of the fourth, scoring two runs on a single and a fielder’s choice. In the bottom of the fifth inning, though, the Rams’ power took over the game as Lauren Buchanan and Corina Gamboa hit back-to-back home runs to tie it at 3-3.

Haley Donaldson followed with a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth that gave the Rams their 5-3 victory and Hutton a complete-game win. A clutch win in this one was followed by big offensive outing against St. John’s.

Kaylynn Pierce allowed three runs in a five-inning win as the Rams run-ruled St. Johns. Every Rams’ batter recorded at least one hit in the 16-3 victory. Sarah Muzik went 4-for-4 and to briefly boost her batting average above .500.

CSU played St. Johns again on Saturday, Hutton allowed a run in the first but proceeded to shut down St. Johns in another complete-game win. The Rams socred three runs on a Hannah McCorkhill double in the bottom of the first. It was the only offense they needed, taking the 5-1 win. The game served as Hutton’s 11th start in 17 games.

“I don’t know if from the outside people know this about her, but she’s (Hutton) probably our top kid in terms of conditioning,” Fisher said. “She’s the person to chase…She’s in phenomenal condition.”

To close the Classic, CSU took two games from Idaho State University (3-16) and never trailed in either.

Larisa Petakoff allowed three runs in four and two-thirds innings to get the win in a 15-6 blowout that reached the run-rule in the sixth. At the plate, Isabella Navarro and Ashley Michelena had the best games of their young collegiate careers. Navarro, a transfer, had her first big day of the season with two doubles and two RBIs while freshman Michelena was 3-for-3 with four RBIs.

The next game was another blowout as the Rams wrapped up the classic undefeated. Hutton allowed one run in the top of the third, but by that time the Rams had jumped out to a 2-0 lead. Michelena drove in the first two runs of the day on a triple in the second, leading to CSU’s 8-1 victory.

Ad

Nevada and CSU battled at Rams Field all weekend in the first conference matchups of the year. The Rams got two walk-off hits to complement Hutton wins, but failed to mount much offense for Pierce and Petakoff in a 4-2 loss.

The first game on Friday could have ended long before it did, as Hutton gave up one earned run on a leadoff homer in the third, but Muzik and Hutton allowed two more runs to score on errors. Hutton didn’t allow a hit again until the tenth inning, during which she stranded two runners. In the bottom half of the inning, Donaldson provided the difference again with a walk-off single that scored Muzik to end the game 4-3.

“It felt great. It felt relieving, it was time to tuck the game away,” Donaldson said. “Especially with our pitchers throwing so good, so it was definitely relieving in that aspect.”

The Rams and Wolfpack played a double-header to close the weekend on Saturday. The teams struggled early in the first game to get any runs, but Gamboa and McCorkhill pushed runs across to make it 2-0 in the fourth.

The Rams did not lead for long as the Wolfpack got two runs in the top of the fifth. After a sacrifice fly scored a Nevada runner in the top of the sixth, the Rams couldn’t mount a comeback as they got only two runners on base after the fourth, giving Nevada a 4-2 win.

“We have to keep working on the offense,” Fisher said, “We’re struggling a little with our confidence. I think this weekend might help with that…Pierce was throwing a great game, but we weren’t getting the run support.”

In the final game against Nevada, Hutton and Nevada’s Kali Sargent took turns throwing zeros, but conditioning reared its head. As Hutton’s pitching got better through the day, Sargent began to struggle after five innings of no-hit hurling. In the seventh, CSU finally got one of its many long drives to stay fair. Usually a power hitter, Amber Nelson got her first home run of the season at the best possible time to give the Rams a 2-0, walk-off win to close the series.

“I’ve just been working on good drive,” Nelson said, “I’m happy to see it coming through and I’m finally coming back…They had two walk-offs against us last season, so it’s nice we got them in our favor this year.”

The Rams have their next Mountain West series this weekend, March 23-25, against Fresno State.

Collegian sports reporter Mack Beaulieu can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on twitter @Macknz_James.