Softball preview: Rams return home for Colorado State Classic

Feb. 28, 2012

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Colorado State Classic…
The Rams will finally get to play in front of their home crowd this weekend as they host the annual Colorado State Classic at Ram Field (500). This year’s participating teams are Northern Iowa, Saint Mary’s College and Weber State. CSU will face the Northern Iowa Panthers at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, followed immediately with a matchup against St. Mary’s. Saturday, CSU will take on Weber State for the second time this season, their first matchup resulting in a 15-14 CSU win in eight innings in Las Cruces, N.M. on Feb. 18. CSU will see Northern Iowa again on Saturday at 3:45 p.m. MT and wrap up the tournament against Saint Mary’s on Sunday at 12:15 p.m. MT.

Non-CSU tournament schedule...
Friday, March 2
Weber State vs. Northern Iowa 9 a.m. MT
Weber State vs. Saint Mary’s 11:15 a.m. MT
Saturday, March 3
Saint Mary’s vs. Weber State 9 a.m. MT
Saint Mary’s vs. Northern Iowa 11:15 a.m. MT
Sunday, March 4
Weber State vs. Northern Iowa 10 a.m. MT

Previously...
CSU spent last weekend at the Cathedral City Classic in Cathedral City, Calif., and finished with a 1-4 record on the tournament and a 4-11 record overall. The Rams got the tournament off to a winning start with a 7-6 win against Long Beach State on Thursday. CSU trailed, 5-1, after one inning but closed the gap and eventually took a one-run lead with an RBI double from freshman Haley David. The 49ers tied the game once again in the sixth, but CSU sophomore Emily Pohl supplied the winning run in the bottom of the frame with her first home run of the year, a solo shot to right field. On Friday, CSU sophomore Chelsea Biglow drove in three runs for the second time this season, but the Rams offense did not score beyond that and fell, 4-3, in a close one against Iowa State. CSU junior Kacie McCarthy pitched a complete game and struck out a season-high 10 batters against Northwestern on Saturday, but gave up eight runs in an 8-1 CSU loss. Pohl knocked in the only CSU runs with a two-out RBI double. The Rams capped off the Classic with two losses against Ohio State and host Oregon State Sunday. The game against Ohio State marked the fourth time this season in which the Rams have scored eight or more runs, but two errors by the CSU defense in the top of the sixth allowed the Buckeyes to score two and take the lead away for good and win, 9-8. Against Oregon State, CSU scored first and out-hit the Beavers, but could not overcome the two-run deficit and lost, 4-2. McCarthy pitched her second complete game of the weekend (and the season) and gave up four runs in the second inning. In the other five innings combined, McCarthy held Oregon State scoreless and allowed just five hits.

Northern Iowa...
The Panthers come to Fort Collins with a 7-3 overall record. They went 4-1 at the Blues City Classic in Memphis, Tenn., the only loss coming against the Redhawks of Miami (Ohio). The 2011 squad finished with a 32-25 record overall and a 16-12 record in the Missouri Valley Conference, good for fourth place in the conference standings. Pitcher and reigning MVC Newcomer of the Year Jamie Fisher returns to the roster after posting a 20-11 record and 2.09 ERA.

Saint Mary’s...
Like the Rams, the Saint Mary’s Gaels enter the Colorado State Classic with four wins on the season. The Gaels have only played nine games this season and will head to Fort Collins with a 4-5 overall record. They most recently went 3-1 at the Pacific Coast Softball Conference CrossOver Tournament, posting wins against CSU’s in-state rival Northern Colorado, Seattle and Portland State. Junior Jessica Lemmon was named PCSC Coastal Division Pitcher of the Week on Tuesday. Lemmon finished the CrossOver Tournament with a 2-0 record, one save and a .060 ERA in four appearances.

Weber State...
CSU is no stranger to Weber State this season, as they have already faced off in 2012. The teams combined for 29 runs on Feb. 18 in Las Cruces, N.M., but the Rams walked away with the win when CSU sophomore Alysa Greckel drew a bases-loaded walk in bottom of the eigth to give the Rams a 15-14 victory. The Wildcats come to Colorado with a 4-9 record and most recently went 1-2 in a three-game set with in-state rival Southern Utah. The squad was predicted to finish sixth in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference Mountain Division and returns 11 players from the 2011 squad, which finished with a 12-38 record (3-17 PCSC).

Last year at the Colorado State Classic...
The Rams went 1-4 over five games at their home tournament in 2011. Their one win came against Santa Clara in the final game of the tournament, 9-4. Northern Illinois handed the Rams their first home loss of the season in a 19-5 rout, followed by a loss in their first game against Santa Clara. The Rams also faced Sacred Heart and lost, 12-9. CSU then-freshman Alysa Greckel went 7-for-18 with five home runs and nine RBI over the course of the tournament. Home sweet home... Friday will mark the Rams’ first home game since May 7, 2011, when they lost to then-conference rival Utah, 6-3. The team only recorded two wins at Rams Field in 2011, the other coming against Santa Clara, 9-4, on the final day of the Colorado State Classic. CSU finished the season with a 2-13 home record and a 1-7 record against the Mountain West at home.

Hitting streaks...
Sophomore Alysa Greckel extended a hitting streak to six games with a single against Northwestern on Saturday, giving her the longest hitting streak so far this season. Greckel went 0-for-2 the next day against Ohio State to bring the streak to a halt, but came back against Oregon State later in the day and hit her second home run of the year. Eight players have at some point hit safely in two or more games. Senior Lyssa Roberts holds the second-longest streak with five games. The longest current hitting streak belongs to sophomore Ashlie Ortega, who went 6-for-15 with three singles and a double at the Cathedral City Classic.

Strength of schedule...
Currently, seven of the Rams’ 2012 opponents are ranked or receiving votes in the two national softball polls. Their current record against ranked opponents is 0-3, the most recent decision coming in a 10-2 loss against then-No. 22/24 Nebraska on Feb. 17. Mountain West-rival New Mexico is new to the USA Today/NFCA poll this week, taking the No. 24 spot. CSU will not face a ranked or vote-receiving opponent at the Colorado State Classic this weekend.

Beefed-up bullpen...
Last season was a year of stuggle for the Ram pitching staff, which was made up of just four members. The team’s 2010 ace, Kelli Eubanks, started just three games after being sidelined by an elbow injury. Eubanks started two games at the Cathedral City Classic and received both a win and a loss. Eubanks tossed 2.1 innings against Long Beach State and gave up five earned runs in a 7-6 CSU win. Against Ohio State, Eubanks allowed six runs in the first inning, which the Ram offense answered with six runs in the top of the second. Over the following our innings, Eubanks held the Buckeyes to one additional run. Junior Kacie McCarthy made three appearances, including her first two complete games of the year. McCarthy gave up all eight of Northwestern’s runs in an 8-1 loss, but struck out a season-high 10 batters in the process. Her second complete game came against Oregon State on Sunday, when she gave up four runs in the second inning. In the other five innings combined, however, McCarthy held the Beavers scoreless and and allowed just five hits. She currently holds the staff’s lowest ERA (6.30). The pitching staff’s lone freshman, Molly Randle, got the start against Iowa State and held the Cyclones to three hits and two runs over four innings of work. The two runs are the fewest she has allowed in three season starts.

Sophomores...
The 2012 roster returns six of the 10 freshman from the 2011 squad, and last year’s fresh talent is continuing to perform with a year of experience. Alysa Greckel currently holds the record for the longest hitting streak of the season with six games; Greckel snapped her streak after going hitless against Northwestern, but returned to the field later that day and belted her second home run of the year. Emily Pohl went 8-for-16 at the Cathedral City Classic with five RBI and a home run, her first of the year. Pohl posted a .550 on-base percentage and .812 slugging percentage over the weekend, putting her in first and second place on the team, respectively (.577 and .545 overall). She also leads the team in batting average (.364). Chelsea Biglow supplied the Rams’ only runs against Iowa State on Friday with an RBI single and a two-RBI triple, marking her second three-RBI performance of the year.