White, Brisky Help Mountain Lions Erase Nine-Game Losing Streak
ALAMOSA -- It takes a mighty big eraser to wipe away the smudge of a nine-game losing streak. After Saturday, you can call Libby White and Sarah Brisky the erasers.
White held Colorado State-Pueblo to two runs and Brisky made a game-saving diving catch to help the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs to a 3-2 win over the Thunderwolves at ASC Softball Field.
But before the streak could be ended, it was extended as CSU-Pueblo won the doubleheader opener 9-6.
White (4-6), the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference's best freshman pitcher in 2007, has struggled with an identity crisis in 2008 that had her coming into Saturday's games with an 8.25 ERA. Against the Thunderwolves, White looked like her old self, getting better in proportion with the amount of adversity she faced. She stranded 11 CSU-Pueblo baserunners and never looked rattled.
"I knew in my heart that (White) was going to hold them," said Brisky. "She was hitting her spots and she didn't get down at all. She did a great job and we really needed it."
Brisky, meanwhile, was Plan C at second base. Plan A is starter Rachel Hancock, who was sidelined with a hand injury. Plan B is having third baseman Amanda Hathaway play second with first baseman Katie Johnston moving to third. But with backup first baseman Lindsay Zastrow also sidelined, Johnston and Hathaway were forced to stay put.
Plan C proved to be pretty darn good. With the score tied at one and Thunderwolves poised on first and second, Janine Tyler hit a laser into the hole between first and second. Brisky dove, fully extended, and snagged the line drive for the third out.
"That was probably the play of the game," said White. "It was a do-or-die kind of thing. If she didn't make play, who knows what would have happened? They had two hits that inning and she stopped their momentum."
She also started some momentum for her teammates. With the catch, something seemed to click in the heads of the UCCS players -- something that had been missing for the past three weeks. It was as if Murphy's Law had been revoked and the Mountain Lions suddenly felt, for the first time in a while, that good things could happen for them again.
Even when the first two UCCS batters in the top of the seventh were retired, there was no panic. Stacy Haney drew a walk and stole second off CSU-Pueblo reliever Alyssa Hansen (2-6). That brought Sarah Cleland -- known as Ã¢â‚¬ËœBear' to her teammates -- to the plate.
"The momentum was there," said Johnston, who was in the on-deck circle. "I knew Bear was going to get a hit because I knew I was going to get a hit that inning. Bear got the hit and I just went up there with all of the confidence in the world."
Cleland's RBI double gave UCCS a 2-1 lead. Johnston proved herself right by drilling a line drive off the right field fence to score Cleland and give the Mountain Lions a two-run lead.
That proved to be a very important hit. Kari Romero led off the Thunderwolves' half of the inning with a slow-rolling infield single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. White struck out the next batter and then popped up Kelsey Swanberg for the second out before Brittany Devens singled up the middle, scoring Romero.
Then came the Ã¢â‚¬ËœCubs moment' -- the kind of screwball play that makes normally sensible adults sincerely believe in billy goat curses. Kristin Krueger nubbed a grounder toward second base that took a ridiculous bad hop off the minefield that is the ASC Softball Field surface and went high over Brisky's head.
"I was ready for it and knew the game was over," said Brisky. "I tried to adjust and jump for it but it just rocketed into the sky."
White, who had already endured four squibbed infield hits among the nine she allowed in the game, was not amused.
"I just stood on the mound and thought, Ã¢â‚¬Ëœyou've got to be kidding me. This is NOT funny,'" she said.
Still not laughing, White bore down and struck out Joelle Rofrano on four pitches to end the game and the streak of futility.
"It was one of those situations where I forgot what it felt like to win," said White, who recalled what she and her teammates were discussing before the game. "We were talking about how we take wins for granted sometimes. When you actually put your whole heart into it and get the win, it's the best feeling ever."
As ludicrous as it sounds in the context of a nine-game losing streak, the Mountain Lions aren't eliminated from contention for the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference playoffs. They are at a point, though, where there is no margin for error whatsoever, primarily because error was all they had been able to manage over the past three weeks.
Game 1 was typical of that recent reality. As scripted, CSU-Pueblo (18-19, 13-15 RMAC) took a large lead quickly, starting the game with back-to-back home runs and parlaying those into a 6-2 lead after two innings.
Haney's two-run shot in the first provided UCCS' only runs until the fifth inning when a Hathaway RBI groundout and a two-run double by Brisky closed the deficit to 6-5. The Mountain Lions left Brisky stranded, and then left runners on first and third in the sixth.
But as has been the recent trend, getting close was just a tease. UCCS paid dearly for failing to take the lead when it had the chance as Tyler belted a three-run homer, her second of the game, in the bottom of the sixth to extinguish the comeback.
Until the home run, Holly Jordan had pitched four innings of shutout relief. Stacy Ortiz (5-7) took the loss. Kelsey Swanberg improved to 9-8 with the win.
The Mountain Lions improved to 19-22, 12-18 in the RMAC with 10 games remaining on the regular-season schedule. While it is too early for accurate prognosis, it will likely take seven wins to get into the playoffs.
And a lot of erasers.
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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