Split Could Hurt Regional Hopes

By Doug Fitzgerald published April 8, 2006

GOLDEN, Colo. â€" The Colorado School of Mines softball field sits at the foot of Mt. Zion, which is famous for two things. First, it is considered one of the hang gliding hot spots in the region. Second, there is a large ‘Mâ€TM laid out upon its side in white stones that is visible for miles.

How ironically appropriate.

The Orediggers hung a potentially damaging 5-1 loss upon the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in Saturdayâ€TMs second game, one that will be visible to the already fickle voters of the South Central Region. The Mountain Lions won the first game 4-0.

I say potentially because should UCCS (26-5, 15-5 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) sweep Sundayâ€TMs doubleheader against this same Mines team, Saturdayâ€TMs loss will likely be an unpleasant, but ultimately insignificant, hiccup in the Mountain Lionsâ€TM season. Another loss to Mines (7-19, 3-19), though, and the voters of the region, who inexplicably omitted UCCS from the first regional rankings despite the Mountain Lions having the best record against regional opponents, will feel vindicated for their choice.

“Weâ€TMre going to be OK,” said UCCS coach Scott Peterson. “Weâ€TMre not going to commit hari-kari over this. Weâ€TMll make adjustments and be ready tomorrow.”

Mines starter Katie Kocman (2-8) kept the Mountain Lions baffled with an assortment of off-speed pitches along with fastballs that rarely caught any portion of the plate. Eager to jump-start a sluggish offense, Mountain Lions hitters made Kocmanâ€TMs out-of-the-zone repertoire work by repeatedly swinging at bad pitches.

When the Mountain Lions forced the ball into the strike zone, good things happened. Down 4-0 in the fifth inning, UCCS loaded the bases when Nicole Link and Megan Cushman walked and Sonia Reyes got a bunt single. Rachel Hancock followed with another walk to score the Mountain Lionsâ€TM only run of the game. Kocman retired Savannah Ledford, Lindsey Shandera and Brittni Carlson, UCCSâ€TM 2-4 hitters, to get out of the jam.

“We made some adjustments in our approach to the plate in the fifth, sixth and seventh (innings) and we got some walks,” said Peterson. “We were in the right situation but we didnâ€TMt get the big hit when we needed it.”

They did get the big hit in the opener, courtesy of Janine Ota.

After Mines starter Taylor Cayou (3-6) retired the first nine Mountain Lions she faced, UCCS loaded the bases in the fourth inning when Ledford singled, Shandera doubled and Mines coach Mark Roberts opted to intentionally walk Carlson.

All the while, Ota was in the on deck circle replaying her first encounter with Cayou, a foul out in the second inning.

“Itâ€TMs all about making adjustments,” said Ota. “This is the first time weâ€TMve seen any of these pitchers. I didnâ€TMt even notice that they were intentionally walking (Carlson).”

Otaâ€TMs drive sliced away from right fielder Beth Skidmore and into the right field corner. Had there been no runners on base, the speedy Ota would have had an inside-the-park home run. Instead, she was forced to slow down and settle for a three-run, stand-up triple.

“I wasnâ€TMt thinking home run, just whatever it takes to drive in some runs,” said Ota, who subsequently scored on Sarah Clelandâ€TMs single. “It was my shot to make something happen.”

UCCS pitcher Amanda Ritchie (15-1) made sure that Mines didnâ€TMt make anything happen. Mines got two runners on base with two outs in each of the first two innings only to see Ritchie strike out the next batter. When the Orediggers loaded the bases in the sixth inning, Ritchie again neutralized the threat by way of strikeout.

Angie Heronema (5-3) took the loss in the nightcap.

“Weâ€TMre not going to lose our minds over one loss,” said Peterson.

But it will probably take two wins Sunday to help regional voters find their senses.

UCCS Players/Staff Featured

Brittni CarlsonBrittni Carlson321BSo.
Brittni CarlsonBrittni Carlson32IFFr.
Brittni CarlsonBrittni Carlson32OFJr.
Brittni CarlsonBrittni Carlson32OFSR.
Sonia ReyesSonia Reyes13IFSo.
Sonia ReyesSonia Reyes133BJr.
Sonia ReyesSonia Reyes133BSR
Megan CushmanMegan Cushman5OF/CFr.
Megan CushmanMegan Cushman5OF/CSo.
Megan CushmanMegan Cushman5OF/CSo.
Janine OtaJanine Ota10OF
Amanda RitchieAmanda Ritchie17PJr.
Amanda RitchieAmanda Ritchie17PJr.
Angie HeronemaAngie Heronema1P
Savannah LedfordSavannah Ledford24SS
Nicole LinkNicole Link00C/IFSo.
Nicole LinkNicole Link00C/IFSo.
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