Mountain Lions Split Four-Game Series Against Nebraska-Kearney
McCOOK, Neb. - The University of Colorado at Colorado at Springs won the first two games but had to settle for a four-game split with the Nebraska-Kearney Lopers in games played March 25-26 at McCook Community College.
The Mountain Lions won the first two games 6-5 and 9-4 before dropping Friday's third game 4-3. The Lopers won Saturday's game 7-1.
Inclement weather in Kearney, Neb., forced some radical changes to the schedule. The series was originally scheduled to begin Saturday at Kearney with doubleheaders that day and Sunday. With snow rolling into the area, the series was pushed forward a day with the hopes of beating the weather.
The field at Dryden Park, however, was thoroughly soaked Friday morning, so the teams played at McCook Community College, which is 107 miles southwest of Kearney. With the forecast still ominous, it was decided to play a tripleheader on Friday in case Saturday got snowed out.
But even with the venue and schedule change, the conditions were far from ideal. Temperatures started in the mid 40s and dropped into the mid 30s by the end of the game. Worse was the wind, which blew in the teens most of the day and gusted to as high as 24.6 mph, according to the National Weather Service. Add to that 86 percent humidity that allowed the cold to penetrate protective layers and the misery was complete.
"Today was tough conditions to play in," said UCCS coach Scott Peterson. "It was bitter cold. By the end of the day it was difficult to even catch the ball."
Caitlin Connelly went 5-for-9 with a .667 on base percentage to lead the offense for UCCS (10-19, 7-13 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference). Amanda Hathaway went 6-for-12 and Landry Davis was 5-for-12. Lara Mathewson led the team with six RBIs and Marissa Wallace scored six runs.
Among the pitchers, Jessica Belsterling struck out 19 in 11 innings, including a 13-strikeout in the second game that was the second most ever by a UCCS pitcher.
UCCS 6, Nebraska-Kearney 5
Behind three hits each by Davis and Connelly, the Mountain Lions built a big early lead and withstood a dogged comeback attempt to win the opener.
After Christina Blanton's solo home run tied the game at one in the top of the second inning, the first eight Mountain Lions to bat in the third reached base on five hits, a pair of fielder's choices and an error. An RBI single by Mathewson, a two-run single by Belsterling and a two-run double by Connelly accounted for the five-run inning and a 6-1 UCCS lead.
The lead was needed as UNK starter Kirstie Hiatt (6-10) held UCCS to no runs on three hits (two by Davis, one by Connelly) over the final four innings.
A two-run single by Jessie Thomas in the bottom half of the third made it 6-3 and was her second and third RBIs of the game. Solo homers by Dani Mowinkel in the fourth and sixth closed the gap to 6-5.
But UCCS' Becca Smith kept the damage to that to improve to 4-6 on the season. She struck out eight, walked one and allowed nine hits.
UCCS 9, Nebraska-Kearney 4
Belsterling (6-7) struck out 13, the second most ever by a UCCS pitcher, to lead the Mountain Lions to their second win in as many games.
The UCCS record for strikeouts in a game is 14, which Amanda Ritchie did twice in 2006. UCCS pitchers had struck out 12 batters in a game three times.
Offensively, Wallace scored three runs and Mathewson drove in four. Hathaway added a 3-for-3 performance with two runs scored.
Nebraska-Kearney was leading by one when UCCS led off the third inning with a single by Tahnea Leeling and a double by Hathaway. Wallace followed with a single to score Leeling and advanced to second on a ground out by Davis. Mathewson brought both runners home with a double to make it 3-1.
Another Mathewson double in the fifth again scored Wallace, who reached on a fielder's choice and stole second.
UCCS added five more in the seventh with Mathewson, Belsterling and Blanton each driving in a run and Erin Milburn bring in two with a double. The Lopers countered with three in the bottom of the inning but fell far short a catching up.
Nebraska-Kearney 4, UCCS 3
The Lopers avoided the Friday sweep as Cassie Keck had two RBIs but all four runs scored while she was at bat in a bitterly cold third game.
Keck's RBI single in the first staked the Lopers to a 1-0 lead, but UCCS tied it in the second when Blanton doubled and the scored a batter later on an errant throw to third. The Mountain Lions took the lead in the third when Hathaway, who singled to lead off the inning, scored on a throwing error after a Wallace bunt. Davis followed with a double to score Wallace.
The Lopers loaded the bases in the fourth and Keck hit what should have been a sacrifice fly, but the ball was misplayed by right fielder Leeling and all three runners scored.
From that point, the cold and Hiatt (7-10) shut down the UCCS offense, which had a lone hit in the fifth, sixth and seventh but couldn't bring the tying run across. Just one of the runs allowed by Hiatt was earned.
UCCS starter Jenna Mott (0-5) surrendered just one earned run and struck out seven.
Nebraska-Kearney 7, UCCS 1
The Lopers scored seven runs in the first two innings to even the four-game series.
UCCS starter Smith had a chance to get out of both innings with minimal damage. In the first, she struck out Keck to make it two outs with a runner on first. Thomas followed with a single before Mowinkel belted a three-run homer.
The Lopers led off the second with a solo shot by Ali Seberger, but Smith retired the next two batters. The third out again proved elusive as a single by Emily Mierau was followed by an RBI double by Austin Wilson. Keck's two-run shot made it 7-1.
That UCCS run came in the first inning. Wallace led off the game with a single and was sacrificed to second by Davis. Mathewson drilled a single up the middle to score Wallace.
The Mountain Lions added six more hits during the game and had seven runners in scoring position, but couldn't get the clutch hits against UNK pitcher Becky Dunn (1-3).
Belsterling relieved Smith in the third inning for UCCS and threw four brilliant innings of one-hit ball, striking out six.
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