Mountain Lions Headed to RMAC Playoffs After Split with Mines
GOLDEN, Colo. - The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs softball team did exactly what it needed to do to get itself into the playoffs as Becca Smith scattered eight hits in a 2-0 shutout of the Colorado School of Mines Orediggers in the opening game of Sunday's doubleheader at CSM Softball Field. While the Mountain Lions dropped the second game 8-3, they came into the day needing one win to guarantee their advance to postseason play.
What the Mountain Lions didn't know is that they had already clinched the berth at 11:44 a.m. in Alamosa, Colo.
When Sunday's games between Adams State and Chadron State were canceled due to snow, UCCS was in the playoffs. Coming into the day, the only scenario in which UCCS would have been eliminated would have been if it had lost both of its games against Mines and Chadron State had won both against Adams State.
The Mountain Lions' win likely didn't make the long bus ride back to Chadron more palatable. The Eagles would have knocked Adams State out of the playoffs had they swept the doubleheader. The severe weather never gave them that chance.
That didn't matter for UCCS though, as the Mountain Lions earned their postseason ticket.
"We earned our way," said UCCS coach Scott Peterson by phone. "We've had to battle back since early in the season."
Indeed they did. After a dubious start to the season, the Mountain Lions closed by winning 12 of their final 18 games, including two wins each against conference leaders Colorado Mines and Metro State.
A Marissa Wallace triple in the third inning of Sunday's opener was followed by a Jessica Belsterling sacrifice fly to give UCCS the lead. The Mountain Lions doubled the advantage when Lara Mathewson doubled home Amanda Hathaway, who had singled to lead off the fifth inning, with two outs.
Smith (13-9) made the narrow margin a winner. The junior had to scramble all day, allowing at least one hit in every inning but the seventh. Three UCCS double plays helped mitigate the traffic as did Smith allowing just one walk while striking out five. Four of those strikeouts came in the final two innings.
Smith has now recorded six wins and a save in her past seven appearances.
After retiring the first six batters of the nightcap, UCCS starter Belsterling got tagged for one score in the third and two unearned runs in the fourth. After three of the first five batters in the fifth inning reached base (all would eventually score), Belsterling was lifted in favor of Jenna Mott, who pitched the final 1.1 innings.
Trailing 6-0, the Mountain Lions cut the deficit in half in the top of the sixth. Belsterling hit a solo homer with one out, after which Christina Blanton walked and Erin Milburn singled. Caitlin Connelly followed with an RBI double and Tahnea Leeling hit a sacrifice fly.
The UCCS right field duo of Leeling (2-for-2 in the second game) and Sara Palizzi (2-for-3 in the first) led Mountain Lion hitters. Lara Mathewson was a combined 3-for-6, while Milburn, Amanda Hathaway and Wallace each had two hits on the day.
UCCS will go into the playoffs, which begin Thursday in Golden, Colo., as the No. 8 seed and will face No. 1 seed Metro State at 12:30 on Thursday in the first round of the double elimination tournament.
The Mountain Lions were playing under the cloud of the absence of longtime supporter Glenn Williams, who passed away last week, Williams had been a UCCS softball fans since 1993.
"Our kids were playing with heavy hearts," said Peterson. "Mr. Williams was definitely on their minds."
To see the RMAC playoff bracket, click here.
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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