CSU softball stumbles in their opening matchup of the NISC

Mack Beaulieu

The Colorado State softball team started off their first postseason play in fourteen years with a loss on Wednesday to the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in the opening round of the National Invitational Softball Championships. The Jackrabbits jumped on the Rams from the start.

Bridgette Hutton got her first postseason start and had a hard time living up to her regular season success, on the same day she was named to the All- Mountain West team, leading to the Rams’ early deficit. The only run the Rams would get came courtesy of a pinch hitter; a player the Rams will not have on Thursday when they play the University of Northern Colorado in an effort to move on and stay alive in the double-elimination tournament.

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“Today was definitely not the best that we can play and not the best that we can pitch or hit,” coach Jen Fisher said. “We will just try and regroup and come out and have a stronger showing tomorrow.”

The game started with trouble for the Rams with the Jackrabbit’s lead-off batter reaching on a single and then advancing on a throwing error. After a foul-out and a walk, the Jackrabbits had runners on the corners with just one out. From there, one of the nation’s leaders in doubles, the team did what they do best and hit two doubles, with a walk sandwiched in between. This resulted in the Jackrabbits’ first four runs.

“Usually Bridgette, all year, has been giving us a really good shot to win,” Fisher said. “She’s kept even really good hitting teams to not a ton of hits, not of ton of runs so that was a hard decision to take her out, but Pierce came in and did an admirable job getting us out of the inning.”

Kaylynn Pierce was brought in after that as Hutton had her shortest outing of the season by recording just one out. Pierce let in one more of Hutton’s runners, but quickly got out of the inning, stopping the bleeding at 5-0.

For the next couple of innings it looked as if the Rams may have a chance to get back into it, with Pierce getting out of the second inning quickly and putting the Jackrabbits down in order in the third. However, the Rams could not get it going against Madison Hope.

“She just had us swinging at her pitch and not our pitch,” Fisher said. “We were hooking good stuff foul and chasing pitches, we weren’t squaring them up like we should of been.”

The Rams could not put anything together while Pierce was holding the Jackrabbits down, only getting one runner in scoring position before the fifth inning. In the top of the fourth, Pierce allowed three more runs to bring the game to a possible mercy ruling.

“For a couple of innings she looked pretty sharp,” Fisher said, “then they just got on to her.”

After Alison Petty came in to relieve Pierce in the fourth, the Jackrabbits would add three more runs, but it was all insurance with the Rams not scoring until the bottom of the fifth. Tara Shadowen came in to pinch hit and reached on a double and Sarah Muzik drove her in on a triple. Any possible rally ended there though as Ashley Michelena grounded out on the next at bat to ended the game 11-1.

An unusual hitting order, the Rams may have not gotten any runs if there had not been a lineup change that put Michelena at leadoff and the Rams All- Mountain West second basemen in the ninth slot.

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“Muzik is going on a service trip to Jamaica,” Fisher said. “So we thought we wanted to throw Michelena up there at the top to see if she could get use to that spot the rest of the way, because she’ll be leaving (Thursday) morning.”

Muzik will be will not be available for CSU’s game against UNC. The Rams will have to try and overcome the loss of their speedy, .400 hitter. With the Rams pitching staff coming off a rough start and the line-up changing, the Rams will have some decisions to make going into the next game.

“Bridgette tends to be the starter…,” Fisher said. “We’ve already played UNC twice this year, so we’ll have to look at the previous two games and see who gives us the best shot against UNC.”

The Rams will play again at noon on Thursday to try and advance and play the loser of SDSU and Loyola Marymount at 6 p.m.

Mack Beaulieu is a reporter for the Collegian and can be reached online at sports@collegian.com or on twitter @Macknz_James