Split guarantees UCCS second place
The Mountain Lions are now officially backed into the win-the-conference-tournament-or-else corner.
The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs split its Saturday doubleheader with the New Mexico Highlands Cowgirls, winning the first game 9-5 before dropping the nightcap 3-2. The loss, for all intents and purposes, eliminated any chance for the Mountain Lions to sneak into the top six in the South Central Region. Since only six teams qualify for the regional playoffs, UCCS must now win next weekend's Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Tournament "" and the automatic regional bid that goes with it "" in order to keep the 2005 season alive.
Amber Colton (16-3) struck out 11 New Mexico Highlands batters in the opener, one short of her own school record. The senior from Loveland, Colo., pitched five innings of two-hit ball before giving up three runs on four hits in the sixth inning.
The Mountain Lions scored five runs in the top half of the inning, forcing Colton, who has chronic back problems, to try to stay loose over an extended period of time. As has happened several times this season, Colton struggled after the long layoff.
But it wasn't just in the fifth inning that the UCCS hitters were effective. That started right from the beginning of the game as the Mountain Lions put two runs on the board ikn the top of the first inning. Kara Rainey double, stole third and scored when Brianna Workman reached on an error. Workman scored on a Lindsey Shandera double.
UCCS added two more in the third. Workman walked, went to third on a Shandera single and scored on an error. Anna Berngard added an RBI single later in the inning.
In the fifth, Charlene Berg and Rainey each hit two-run singles and Shandera had an RBI ground out.
In Game 2, UCCS starter Brenna Pool (7-5) came up on the short end of a pitcher's duel against Highlands' Keri Evans (11-9).
"Brenna threw an absolute gem," said UCCS coach Scott Peterson.
The Cowgirls got on the board first when Jamie Ruhland hit a solo homer in the third. The Mountain Lions answered with Rainey's two-run double in the fifth.
UCCS was unable to protect the lead, though, as Ruhland had an RBI single in the bottom of the fifth. An unearned run in the sixth gave Evans a lead should would not relinquish.
"The kid threw a good ballgame," said Peterson of Evans. "We're going to give her credit. We had nine strikeouts and (five) of them were with runners on base."
While Saturday's Game 2 loss was certainly disappointing, it likely didn't have any real impact. The Mountain Lions came into this weekend's games ranked No. 8 in the South Central Region despite having won 20 of their past 23 games. Even had they swept New Mexico Highlands, it's unlikely that they would have been able to jump the two spots needed to grab an at-large berth in the regional tournament. Thus, regardless of the outcome of this weekend's games, UCCS would have probably still been backed into the corner that requires them to win the RMAC tournament.
Maybe that's not so bad, though, because any naturalist can tell you that a Mountain Lion backed into a corner is a very dangerous thing.
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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