Blanton's Four RBIs, Smith's Clutch Pitching Leads UCCS to Playoffs' Doorstep
GOLDEN, Colo. - Nobody likes clichés, but when the going gets tough, the tough REALLY DO get going.
And Becca Smith is really tough.
The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs pitcher struck out the first game's final two batters with runners on second and third to preserve a 5-4 Mountain Lion win over Colorado School of Mines in Saturday's opener as UCCS split its doubleheader with the Orediggers.
UCCS heads into Sunday, the final day of the regular season, in eighth place in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference with an 18-19 record in conference games. That's a significant spot since eight teams qualify for the RMAC playoffs.
The only way UCCS could be eliminated from the playoffs would be if Chadron State swept its doubleheader against Adams State and UCCS was swept by Mines. One UCCS win Sunday would lock up a playoff spot. Should the Mountain Lions sweep the 27-10 Orediggers, they could move up to as high as the No. 6 seed.
A three-run homer by Christina Blanton in the fifth capped a four-run inning that gave UCCS a 5-1 lead and Blanton four RBIs in Saturday's first game.
But the Orediggers have the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference's best record for a reason. They scored one in the bottom of the fifth and added back-to-back solo homers by Sarah Lustgraaf and Molly Thiebaut to make it 5-4 after six innings.
In the seventh, Macy Jones and Sarah Van Lingen led off with singles. Sami Springer singled, but Jones was caught in a rundown between third and home. Springer and Van Lingen advanced to second and third but Amanda Hathaway's throw from center field, her seventh outfield assist of the season, preserved the lead.
With runners on second and third and one out, Mines had Lustgraaf and Thiebaut, the same duo that had back-to-back jacks, scheduled to bat. Smith (12-9) struck both out swinging to end the game.
Smith's stats weren't all that special on this bitter cold Saturday in the Colorado foothills. The junior allowed 13 hits, seven of those in the final two innings, and allowed four runs, three earned. Her eighth and ninth strikeouts allowed UCCS to hold on for the win.
Where the Mountain Lions escaped peril in the opener, they failed to do the same in the second game. Three consecutive two-out singles led to a three-run third inning for the Orediggers. Four straight singles in the fifth scored two runs to make it 5-0 with Van Lingen having three RBIs.
UCCS starter Jessica Belsterling (9-11) faced one batter over the minimum in the other four innings she pitched.
The Mountain Lions scored their only run of the second game on an RBI single by Marissa Wallace in the seventh.
Kelly Unkrich (18-7), the RMAC leader in ERA at 1.30, was as good as her stats. She scattered eight hits and walked one while striking out eight.
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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