Blanton, Belsterling Lead UCCS to Sweep of New Mexico Highlands
COLORADO SPRINGS - They're like two B's in a pod.
Christina Blanton hit a grand slam in the opener and Jessica Belsterling drove in five runs in the second game as the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs swept its doubleheader against the New Mexico Highlands Cowgirls during Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference pod play Saturday at Mountain Lion Field.
UCCS won the first game 5-1 and the second 10-8. It was the second doubleheader hosted by UCCS Saturday as Colorado State-Pueblo and Chadron State split their doubleheader earlier in the day. The four teams are competing in one of three RMAC pods this weekend.
Both of the UCCS sluggers finished Saturday with six RBIs. Blanton was 2-for-7, with both hits being home runs, while Belsterling went 5-for-6 with a double and a home run. Erin Milburn, Marissa Wallace and Landry Davis all had three hits each.
The Mountain Lions (15-21, 12-15 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) wore orange jerseys to promote Leukemia awareness and honor Becca Smith's brother, Brett, who recently was diagnosed with the disease as well as Dr. Glen Williams, the long-time friend of the UCCS Athletic Department who is fighting his own battle with cancer.
Smith (7-8) rose to the occasion. The junior from Solon, Iowa, threw a complete game in the opener, allowing just one run on eight hits with no walks. She came back to get the save in the nightcap with 2 1/3 innings of effective relief.
Blanton's grand slam capped a five-run first inning that Smith made stand up in the opener.
"I thought I popped it up, to be honest," said Blanton, who is obviously in need of self-promotion lessons.
While the impressiveness of the slam was lost on Blanton, Smith put it in perspective.
"It definitely picked us up for the rest of the game," she said.
The Mountain Lions managed just two hits the rest of the way but it was enough as Smith stranded eight cowgirl baserunners.
"Becca is a sensational pitcher, we all know it," said Blanton. "She does what she's supposed to do and gets us out of innings."
Belsterling's two-run homer capped a three-run first inning in the second game. She added a rare, three-run single off the fence in right center in the second to make it 6-2.
After Highlands (6-31, 3-23 RMAC) scored a run in the third, UCCS answered with a Kara Mathewson RBI single in the bottom of the inning to make it 7-3.
The scrappy Cowgirls closed to within a run as Shelby Hoffman pounded a three-run homer with two out in the fifth inning. They were threatening to take the lead in the top of the sixth, getting runners on first and third with one out.
Milburn, the UCCS catcher, nailed one runner trying to steal for the second out. She put the throw in perfect position, allowing Wallace, the shortstop, to apply the tag while staying square to home. That discouraged the runner on third from considering trying to tie the game by completing what was intended to be a delayed double steal.
Milburn did herself one better on the next batter, going horizontal to make a diving catch on a foul ball just inches from the backstop that ended the inning.
"Erin's play was huge," said Smith. "It was definitely a game-turner."
"That was one of the best plays I've seen," added UCCS coach Scott Peterson.
The Mountain Lions increased their advantage to 10-6 in the sixth. After Belsterling singled, Blanton homered to center field. Milburn followed with a triple and scored on an illegal pitch.
Highlands got two back in the seventh on Hoffman's second homer of the game, but couldn't finish the comeback.
Belsterling (8-8) allowed three runs, only one of which was earned, over four innings to get the win.
"It's two weekends in a row that we've won the series," said Peterson, whose team won two out of three against Metro State on April 2-3. The Mountain Lions split a doubleheader against Colorado State-Pueblo on Friday. The one loss came on a seventh-inning rally.
"Getting three out of four this weekend - almost four out of four - is great," said Peterson. "That's what we needed.
"Now we get ready for Chadron (on April 16-17)."
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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