Sweep Puts UCCS in Second Place
PUEBLO â€" The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs vaulted into second place in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference with a sweep of the Colorado State-Pueblo Thunderwolves Wednesday at Rawlings Sports Complex.
The Mountain Lions, who have now won 14 of their past 15 games, beat CSU-Pueblo 5-2 in Game 1 and 6-4 in an extra-inning nightcap. UCCS now leads Fort Hays State by a game and a half and CSU-Pueblo by 2 1/2 games.
During the streak, UCCS has had dominating offensive outbursts as witnessed by the teamâ€TMs .376 batting average in the 13 games preceding Wednesday. The Mountain Lions have also pitched extremely well, posting a 2.13 ERA during the streak including no-hitters by Amber Colton and Brenna Pool.
Wednesday, it was time for the defense to be the difference-maker.
â€œDefensively, everybody was very solid,â€ said UCCS coach Scott Peterson. â€œI donâ€TMt think thereâ€TMs one kid who didnâ€TMt make a great play.â€
But some plays stood out. Colton chased down a perfect push bunt to nail a lead runner at second base. Sarah Cleland, Brianna Workman and Brittni Carlson all made over-the-shoulder catches in the outfield. Lindsay Shandera snagged a point-blank line drive and preserved a couple of outs by keeping her foot on first despite being stretched by wide throws.
But the best play was turned in by shortstop Jennifer Dykstra, who ranged far to her right to snag a hard grounder, then threw the runner out at first from her knees. Dykstra said that fielders, like hitters, can get into a groove during which they feel they can make every play.
â€œIf you have confidence that you can make every play, you end up making more plays,â€ said Dykstra. â€œYou donâ€TMt want to give hits away. With both teams hitting so good, you have to go for everything.â€
CSU-Pueblo, meanwhile, was less sharp defensively. The Thunderwolves not only committed five errors, but also failed to make as many hit-denying grabs as did UCCS.
â€œWeâ€TMre playing very good ball right now,â€ said Peterson.
Colton (12-2) got both wins, throwing a complete-game while scattering seven hits in the opener, then adding 2 2/3 innings in relief in the nightcap.
Kara Rainey opened the scoring in Game 1 with a two-run homer to right field in the third inning. The Mountain Lions added two more in the fourth on a Dykstra RBI double and a Cleland fielderâ€TMs choice. Anna Berngard added an RBI double in the sixth.
The nightcap was a much more nip-and-tuck affair.
The Thunderwolves hit three consecutive singles in the second inning to take a 1-0 lead. A solo home run by Breanna Hedstrom in the third increased the advantage to 2-0 and chased UCCS starter Brenna Pool.
The Mountain Lions cut the lead in half in the fourth inning when Carlson tripled down the right field line and scored on a Dykstra single.
UCCS took the lead in the sixth. Workman led off the inning by reaching on an error. Shandera followed with a double, then Crystal Krebs loaded the bases on another CSU-Pueblo miscue. After Carlson hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game, Dykstra put UCCS up 3-2 with an RBI ground out. Cleland made it 4-2 with an RBI single.
In the meantime, Amanda Ritchie, who took over for Pool, cruised through the third, fourth and fifth innings. In the sixth, however, a solo homer by Brittany Pohlen and a single by Savannah Byers not only cut the lead to one, but also forced Peterson to call on Colton again.
Colton stopped the bleeding in the sixth, but uncorked a bases-loaded wild pitch in the seventh that sent the game into an extra frame.
With one out in the eighth, Krebs singled and Carlson doubled off the right field wall. Dykstra popped up and, with two outs and the game on the line, Cleland delivered a two-run single.
â€œI was a little nervous because I knew I had to get the job done,â€ said Cleland, a freshman from Erie, Colo. â€œI knew (the pitch) was going to be inside; thatâ€TMs what (CSU-Pueblo pitcher Angela Heitman) was throwing at me all day.â€
Colton retired CSU-Pueblo in order in the bottom half of the inning to preserve the win.
â€œItâ€TMs a couple of great wins in a tough place,â€ said Peterson. â€œSince Iâ€TMve been (at UCCS), weâ€TMve always struggled here. Itâ€TMs always tough to come down here and get wins.â€
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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