Blanton's Bomb Lift Mountain Lions to Split with Regis
DENVER - University of Colorado at Colorado Springs softball coach Scott Person should be answering phones for the Psychic Hotline in the offseason.
"When Christina came up, I just had a great feeling something was going to happen," he said after Saturday's doubleheader.
Christina Blanton's two-run home run in the top of the eighth inning lifted UCCS to a 7-6 victory over the Regis Rangers in Saturday's second game and allowed the Mountain Lions to come away from the Regis Softball Field with a split.
The first game also went into extra innings with Regis winning 3-2 in nine frames.
"I was seeing the ball and (the pitcher) piped it and I did what I had to," said Blanton with a matter-of-factness that would make you think she had assembled an end table, not hit a game-winning home run.
After an 0-for-4 first game, Peterson moved Blanton from her customary No.6 spot in the batting order down to No. 8.
"It was extra motivation," said Blanton, who went 2-for-3 with a walk in the second game. "Coach talked to me after the (first) game and it kind of got my head clear."
UCCS (7-12, 4-6 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) trailed 5-1 entering the seventh inning of the nightcap. A Blanton double was sandwiched by a pair of outs and had the Mountain Lions looking square in the face of a sweep.
Speedy Marissa Wallace surprised the Rangers by dropping a bunt that Regis pitcher Nikki Haberkorn (3-5) fielded cleanly, but in her rush to end the game she threw wide of first base for an error. Blanton scored to cut the deficit to three.
The next batter, Melissa DeWitt, hit a sharp grounder to third baseman Bianca Holley, but her throw to first glanced off the top of the first baseman's glove for another error. That put runners at second and third for Lara Mathewson, who drilled a clutch double down the left field line that scored both runners.
Still trailing by one, UCCS cleanup hitter Jessica Belsterling rifled a line drive off the shin of Haberkorn, making the ball carom in shallow right field. It also scored Mathewson and sent tied the game. Belsterling, who was also the UCCS starting pitcher, stranded two runners in the bottom of the inning to send the game to extra frames.
"The credit goes all to the kids; they won this game themselves," said Peterson. "The players came up in the seventh and just battled. It was awesome to come back after being down because they could have rolled over and they didn't at all."
After Caitlin Connelly's one-out single, Blanton ripped a long shot over the left field fence, giving UCCS its first lead of the day.
Regis rallied in the bottom of the inning as Haberkorn led off with a double and, one out later, scored on an Emily Anderson single. A single by Holley put a second Ranger on base. A strikeout, Belsterling's 10th of the game, and a bouncer to short ended the game.
Getting that out when they did was crucial for the Mountain Lions because Alisa Heronema, the RMAC's leading hitter at .460 entering the day, was on deck. She was already 6-for-7 with two walks in Saturday's games.
The Mountain Lions got the kind of quality, back-to-back pitching performances they've been anticipating since bringing in Belsterling and Becca Smith. Four of the runs scored on Belsterling (5-5) were earned as she kept the Mountain Lions in the game despite some defensive lapses behind her.
Smith (2-3) was outstanding in the opener, pitching 8 2/3 innings with eight hits and a walk while striking out seven.
Belsterling and Tahnea Leeling were each a combined 4-for-8 for UCCS. Mathewson's three RBIs led in that category.
Game 1 was a classic pitcher's duel between Smith and Holley, who entered the game second in the RMAC with a 2.16 ERA. That ERA improved as Holley (7-3) held the Mountain Lions to two runs over nine innings, two more than a regulation game. Holley scattered 12 hits and two walks while striking out seven.
A pair of unfortunate events in the first inning would ultimately harm the Mountain Lions. Wallace reached on an error and stole second. Landry Davis followed with an infield single and also stole second to give UCCS runners on second and third with none out.
Mathewson hit a hard line drive, but shortstop Amber Aragon-Autobee reached to her right to nab it. She was able to flip the ball to third to double off Wallace.
Belsterling followed with a single to right field that appeared to score Davis from second. After clearly calling Davis safe, though, the home plate umpire subsequently called her out when catcher Shelby Wieman tagged Davis well after the play had been apparently resolved.
The missed opportunities proved costly. The Mountain Lions scored a run in the second when Mathewson singled home Milburn, who had doubled to lead off the inning. From there, Holley shut down UCCS until the seventh.
Down 2-1 going into the seventh, Connelly walked and went to second on a ground out. Leeling brought her home with a two-strike double to the fence in left center.
Regis loaded the bases with one out in the bottom half of the inning, but Smith induced back-to-back shallow fly balls to strand the baserunners.
Milburn and Leeling each singled to lead off the ninth but another line-drive double play made it two out with a runner on second. One batter later, Holley struck out Mathewson to end the threat.
Alisa Heronema, who scored two of the three runs for the Rangers, came up with two out and the bases empty in the bottom of the ninth. She hit a soft fly to left that Davis dived for, but the ball popped out of her glove when she hit the ground. Heronema, hustling straight out of the batters box, chugged hard for second. Davis threw wide of the bag and the ball just kept on rolling as Heronema rounded third and scored the winning run.
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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