CSU softball continues slow climb up Mountain West standings

Mack Beaulieu

The Colorado State softball team added another series victory to its conference resume over the weekend as they took two out of three from Utah State University. With no sweeps for or against the Rams in conference play, they’ve built a 7-5 record and currently sit third in the Mountain West.

Caught in another series of crushing the ball or getting into pitcher’s duels, the Rams won two out of three games behind the strength of their pitching staff and the bats of a couple of the usual suspects in Lauren Buchanan and Sarah Muzik.

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Originally scheduled to start on Friday, the teams had to hold off until Saturday and play a double-header as the weather in Utah didn’t comply. Bridgette Hutton went the distance again, as she’s done many times this year, and only allowed three hits while striking out eight batters in the Rams’ game one win on Saturday.

The Rams scattered base runners throughout the game, but only put up runs in the third and sixth as Buchanan and Muzik combined for most of the team’s offense. Buchanan drove in Muzik twice, while the other run came from a Muzik RBI that drove in Ashley Michelena to account for all of the Rams’ production in the 3-0 win. Hitting first and second in the lineup, the two have been big for the Rams all year.

“I can’t say enough about Muzik’s speed,” Coach Jen Fisher said. “She’s such a huge part of the team and it’s been really fun to watch those two at the top of the lineup. They’re really setting the tone for our team, they set the plate and they get on any way they can.”

The next game wasn’t as frustrating for the Rams’ lineup, but it resulted in a loss as the Aggies also broke out of their game one funk. The Rams pushed across six runs on thirteen hits, but the Aggies had an unusually strong day against four Rams’ pitchers, three of which are currently sitting in the top ten for ERA in the Mountain West.

“Typically we hit our corners a little better,” Young said. “We were just leaving it on the plate a little too much I think. (The Aggies) did have a couple of nice hits on pretty good pitches, so credit to them.”

The Rams led for most of the game, started by Kaylynn Pierce. But after taking a 4-0 lead, the Aggies came back with three runs in the fourth and four in the fifth to make the game 7-4. After helping build the original 4-0 lead with an RBI each, Buchanan and Amber Nelson added runs in the sixth and seventh, respectively. However, Nelson was stranded on second as the next three batters went down in order to bring the game to its 7-6 final.

Hutton started the third game of the series after serving in relief in the second. With the help of Pierce and timely hitting the Rams were able to secure a close 6-4 victory.

In the series finale, Buchanan once again got the Rams on the board early with a groundout RBI that scored Muzik in the first and Haley Donaldson followed with a solo home run to make it 2-0 after one inning. The Rams cooled off after the first. They were held scoreless for the next two innings and after the Aggies stranded runners in the first and second, they grabbed two runs off Hutton, who used a timely strikeout in the bottom of the third to stop the Aggies’ run.

Buchanan was back at it in the fourth to give the Rams a 3-2 lead on an RBI double, but so were the Aggies as they grabbed two more runs off Hutton before Kaylynn Pierce entered in relief. It was a feat to get four runs in 3.2 innings off a pitcher sporting a 2.61 ERA at the time, but Pierce shut the Aggies down from there after struggling in her start the day before.

“It was great to see Pierce come back really strong today,” Fisher said. “They squared her up a couple of times on a couple of really good pitches (yesterday), but she came back really strong today.”

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After falling behind 4-3 after the fourth, Danni Klein put the Rams ahead for good with a two RBI single to make it 5-4. Corina Gamboa added one more run to bring it to the 6-4 final.

The Rams will play again this coming weekend as they host San Jose State with a chance to move above them into second in the Mountain West.

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