Connelly Gives Gift of Six RBIs on Her Birthday as UCCS Splits
COLORADO SPRINGS - Caitlin Connelly's got the whole birthday thing backwards. She's supposed to be the center of attention and get gifts from all her friends.
Saturday at Mountain Lion Field, she was most certainly the center of her teammates' and the fans' attention, but she was the one doing all the giving.
On her 20th birthday, Connelly went a combined 4-for-4 with six RBIs, including a dramatic three-run pinch hit in the opener, as the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs managed a doubleheader split with the Fort Lewis Skyhawks.
The Mountain Lion s won the opener 8-5, but lost the nightcap 9-6 in eight innings.
Marrissa Wallace was 4-for-7 and scored three times for UCCS (4-7, 1-1 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference), while Erin Milburn, Jessica Belsterling and Christina Blanton each had three hits.
While not lacking dramatic flair on the field, Connelly was far from dramatic afterward. That her breakout day happened on the anniversary of her arrival in this world was held in no special esteem.
"I'm glad I get to play softball on my birthday, but softball is softball," she said.
A bases-loaded walk by Amanda Hathaway in the bottom of the first tied the opener at one. Wallace added a run-scoring triple in the second and Blanton a two-run homer in the third to give UCCS a 4-3 lead. After the Skyhawks tied it in the top of the fourth, Connelly's bases-clearing double broke it open in the bottom of inning. Hathaway added a sacrifice fly to put the Mountain Lions ahead 8-4.
"How about Caitlin Connelly?" said UCCS coach Scott Peterson with a smile. "You talk about kids getting opportunities. Caitlin had a great day; she really stepped up to the challenge."
Opportunity indeed. Connelly entered the day with just four plate appearances and had only 29 in her freshman season.
"It was first real opportunity to put some numbers on the board and I wanted to contribute for the team," said Connelly. That's my big thing; I like to put up numbers for the team. I want to contribute when I get the chance.
"With any at bat for me, it's about knowing the situation, stepping in the box, knowing where the holes are. It's nerve-racking, but I think when you handle it right, you can keep your nerves under control."
The nightcap was a great comeback that almost was.
A four-run rally in the seventh inning sent it to extra innings, but the Mountain Lions faded in the extra frame of an ugly affair that saw seven errors and multiple base running and defensive mistakes.
"The second game was sloppy for everyone that was on the field," said Peterson.
The Mountain Lions trailed that second game 6-2 going into the bottom of the seventh. With one out, Lara Mathewson reached on an error, Belsterling singled and Hathaway walked to load the bases. Blanton brought home one run with a single and Connelly, who started Game 2 and first base, followed with a two-run single to right. Blanton scored on a wild pitch to tie the game at six.
The Mountain Lions nearly won it, but Marrissa Wallace's fly ball to left with two outs needed another two feet to get over left fielder Cierra Walters.
Fort Lewis regained the lead in the eighth, taking advantage of three hits and two UCCS errors. The first run scored on a dropped fly ball to right and the other two on a bad-hop single that got past Wallace, the UCCS shortstop.
"We had a chance in the seventh," said Peterson. "They came up in the eighth and did a nice job. Hats off to them."
Kayla Bruner was 4-for-8 with three RBIs and three runs scored for Fort Lewis (2-5, 1-1 RMAC).
Belsterling (4-3) got the pitching decisions for UCCS in both games. The freshman allowed five runs, three earned, while striking out eight over seven innings in the opener. She relieved Jenna Mott in the second game and was dominant for 2.1 innings until her defense let her down in the eighth. One of her three runs allowed was earned.
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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