Softball Opens Season with Sweep of Highlands

By Doug Fitzgerald published February 25, 2006

After one weekend, the 2006 version of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs softball team looked a lot like the 2004 and 2005 versions.

Brittni Carlson went 5-for-6 with six RBIs and Janine Ota hit two home runs in her first games in nearly three years as the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs softball team opened its season Saturday with an 11-3, 9-7 sweep of the New Mexico Highlands Cowgirls.

While it is unreasonable to suggest that UCCS will belt 61 home runs to match last seasonâ€TMs total, the Mountain Lions did knock six beyond the fence at Mountain Lion Field on Saturday. They also added five doubles among their 23 hits while doing their best impression of the long-ball crew of the past two seasons.

That impression ended, however, with the Roadrunner vs. Wile E. Coyote act on the base paths. New Mexico Highlands tried everything short of an Acme rocket to slow down a UCCS running game that at times looked as unstoppable as electrons circling a nucleus. The Mountain Lions stole 12 bases on the day, with the only three failures the result of sweeping, reach-behind tags by Cowgirls shortstop Shante Payne that looked as if she were assisted by the aforementioned Acme rockets.

Yet despite the offensive display, the Cowgirls never showed any sign of folding. Quite the contrary, New Mexico Highlands did its best to match UCCS blow-for-blow, particularly in the nightcap. The Mountain Lions felt the pressure to keep hitting all day and, to their credit, responded.

“I think every time (at bat) there should be pressure to hit the ball hard,” said Carlson, who has hit .389, .314 and .362 in her three seasons at UCCS. “This is only our first weekend and I think we did excellent.

“Itâ€TMs only going to get better from here.”

Thatâ€TMs a scary thought for opponents. Carlson went 3-for-3 with a double, a home run and five RBIs in Game 1. The senior from Erie, Colo., came back to go 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI in Game 2.

Ota, who spent the past two seasons on the UCCS basketball team, was playing her first competitive softball since the fall of 2002, when she competed in one inning of one tournament for Otero Junior College. Prior to that, Ota last played in high school in the fall of 2000.

“It feels good to be back,” said Ota. “Coach (Scott) Peterson has built a really good program here and itâ€TMs been something that Iâ€TMve wanted to be a part of since my first day (at UCCS).”

Ota belted the game-winner in the sixth inning of Game 2. With the game tied 7-7, Sarah Cleland kept the inning alive with a two-out single and Ota followed with a 325-foot shot over the left field fence.

“(The pitch) was high,” said Ota. “I probably shouldnâ€TMt have swung at it. I knew I got some good air under it but I didnâ€TMt know if it had the distance.”

Ota credited some extra hitting work with assistant coach Tanya Ramsay with her finding her hitting stroke so quickly after such a long layoff.

“Iâ€TMve been working with Tanya fine tuning some things and itâ€TMs really helped a lot,” said Ota.

Freshman Angie Heronema left runners stranded on second and third in the top of the seventh to earn her first collegiate win. She entered the game in the fifth inning in relief of another freshman, Kym Cade.

Amanda Ritchie went the distance earn the win in Game 1. The senior allowed eight hits and struck out six in a run-rule-shortened, six-inning affair.

Leadoff hitter Brianna Workman reached base five times and had two sacrifice bunts in eight plate appearances. The sophomore stole five bases, four in the first game.

The Mountain Lions had two freshmen in the starting lineup. Second baseman Rachel Hancock and shortstop Savannah Ledford were a combined 0-for-6 when Hancock belted a double in her final at bat of Game 1. She went on to collect three hits, including a home run and a double, in the nightcap.

First baseman Lindsay Shandera had a home run, two walks and was hit by a pitch as she scored three runs in the opener.

Catcher Sarah Cleland went 2-for-5 with a home run and two walks, but her best work was on defense. A high school All-Star shortstop who played center field for UCCS this past season, circumstances pressed Cleland into service behind the plate. She responded by calling a good game and throwing out the only runner Highlands had attempt to steal.

Stephanie Valdez was the hitting star for New Mexico Highlands (1-6, 0-2 RMAC), going 3-for-7 with three home runs and six RBIs.

The new look/old look Mountain Lions will square off against Highlands again on Sunday. The first game will begin at 11 a.m. as UCCS hopes to open its season by completing a rare four-game sweep.

“Thereâ€TMre a lot of expectations here,” said Ota.

And thatâ€TMs a legacy the Mountain Lions want to live up to.

UCCS Players/Staff Featured

Brittni CarlsonBrittni Carlson32IFFr.
Brittni CarlsonBrittni Carlson321BSo.
Brittni CarlsonBrittni Carlson32OFJr.
Brittni CarlsonBrittni Carlson32OFSR.
Janine OtaJanine Ota10OF
Amanda RitchieAmanda Ritchie17PJr.
Amanda RitchieAmanda Ritchie17PJr.
Kym CadeKym Cade9P
Rachel HancockRachel Hancock42BSo.
Rachel HancockRachel Hancock42BSo.
Rachel HancockRachel Hancock42BJr.
Angie HeronemaAngie Heronema1P
Savannah LedfordSavannah Ledford24SS
Brianna WorkmanBrianna Workman4OFFr.
Brianna WorkmanBrianna Workman4OFFr.
Brianna WorkmanBrianna Workman4OFFr.
Brianna WorkmanBrianna Workman4OFFr.
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