Mountain Lions Playoff Hopes Take Hit After Being Swept by Nebraska-Kearney
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Kirstie Hiatt pitched 10 strong innings to earn wins in both halves of a doubleheader sweep by the Nebraska-Kearney Lopers over the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Saturday at Mountain Lion Field.
Hiatt threw three innings of scoreless relief in the opener as UNK came from behind to win 11-9. The freshman from McCook, Neb., came back to throw a complete game in the nightcap, allowed four runs, only one of which was earned, in a 5-4 win. Hiatt improved to 4-7.
With the wins, Nebraska-Kearney improved to 11-18 in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference play (14-25 overall) and leapfrogged UCCS (11-21 RMAC), Chadron State (12-20) and Western New Mexico (11-21) to move into the eighth and final spot in the RMAC playoffs with two games remaining to be played.
"Our backs are definitely up against the wall," said UCCS coach Scott Peterson.
UCCS could still make it into the postseason tournament by sweeping the Lopers in Sunday's doubleheader if Metro State sweeps Chadron State and Western New Mexico loses at least one to Colorado State-Pueblo.
Tasha Pagdilao and Christina Blanton both hit home runs in each game for UCCS (14-26 overall). Each finished the day 4-for-8 with four RBIs. Holly Jordan was also outstanding for the Mountain Lions, going 6-for-7. Pagdilao is hitting .423 since March 1.
"I've been cutting out some unnecessary thinking that I was doing in the beginning of the season," said Pagdilao. "It's harder to hit a ball than it is to hit a strike. So, if I see a strike and I like it, I'm going to go after it."
Blanton now has five home runs in her past five games.
"I can see it in her face that (Blanton) has confidence in herself," said Pagdilao.
The Lopers hit seven home runs. Jessie Thomas and Cassie Keck each belted two in the opener, while Hiatt, Mary McLaughlin and Laura Gormley each went deep in Game 2.
Keck hit a three-run shot and Thomas added a solo homer in the third inning as UNK took a 4-0 lead in the opener. UCCS answered in the bottom half of the inning as Ashley Jordan hit a two-run home run and Pagdilao added a three-run shot.
The lead didn't last long. The Lopers added four more runs, all with two outs, in the fourth.
UCCS took a 9-8 lead when Holly Jordan hit a solo homer and Blanton added a three-run blast in the fifth inning. Keck and Thomas each went deep again in the sixth, with Thomas' being a two-run shot, to give UNK an 11-9 lead and, ultimately, the win.
UCCS' Sarah McCauley surrendered eight runs in 3 2/3 innings on seven hits and six walks.
"We didn't pitch well in the first game at all," said Peterson. "I'm not sure what happened; Sarah's been pitching great for the last couple of weeks."
While Ballard (3-9) took the loss in Game 1, she relieved in both games and allowed just three runs on six hits with seven strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings. Since March 15, her ERA is 4.05.
"She's been focusing a lot more on hitting her spots instead of trying to overpower her pitches," said Pagdilao of Ballard. "She's been really trusting the coaches in calling her pitches."
The Lopers scored two in the second inning of Game 2 and then added single runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings. The Mountain Lions countered with Blanton's solo homer in the sixth before Holly Jordan added an RBI single and Pagdilao a two-run homer in the seventh. Blanton nearly tied the game after Pagdilao's hit, but Austin Wilson made the catch leaning over the right field fence.
"We waited until the seventh inning in the second game," said Peterson. "Christina's ball nearly went out, but we can't wait 19 or 20 outs to get something going."
The Mountain Lions' 6-9 batters went a combined 3-for-24.
"The kids who are hitting right now have been hitting all season; we have to get some production from the bottom of the order," said Peterson. "Somebody's got to do something down there because it's taking too long to get back around.
"We've got to pitch better and the bottom of the order's got to do something."
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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