Softball preview: CSU continues non-conference series with Northern Colorado

April 2, 2012

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Coming up...
The Rams are back in action on Wednesday, when they take on the Northern Colorado Bears for the second game of a four-game season series. That contest will take place in Greeley at 5 p.m. MT. On the following Wednesday, the series will return to Fort Collins for CSU’s final matchup before beginning its Mountain West Conference schedule. CSU hosts Game 3 with the Bears at 4 p.m. MT.

Previously...
After finishing up a nine-game California road trip on March 18, the Rams headed back to the West Coast on March 23 for their final non-conference weekend tournament of the 2012 season. CSU went 4-1 at the UC Riverside tournament in Riverside, Calif., all four wins coming in succession to represent CSU’s longest winning streak of the year. The Rams started off with a 1-0 win over Brown. CSU starter Kacie McCarthy and Brown starter Denise van der Goot each pitched a complete game with four hits or less, but McCarthy held the Bears to two hits and won the pitching duel. The Rams returned to the diamond later that day to face Santa Clara, whom they defeated at the Colorado State Classic in 2011. The CSU offense got the better of the Broncos once again, edging them, 3-2 in 10 innings. Junior transfer Kailey Snyder pitched all 10 innings for the Rams and picked up her fourth win of the year. At 5-0, Snyder is currently the only undefeated pitcher on the staff. On March 25, CSU faced host UC Riverside and forced the NCAA mercy rule for the second time this season, routing the Highlanders, 10-2, in six innings. The win also marked CSU’s first shutout victory of the year. CSU faced Brown for the second time in the tournament on March 26 and once again won by one run. CSU sophomore Alysa Greckel went 2-for-3 with three RBI and two home runs in the game. Sophomore Ashlie Ortega later reached on a fielder’s choice to score sophomore Chelsea Biglow and lift the Rams over the Bears once again. CSU would not have the same success against UC Riverside later in the day than it did the previous day, as the Highlanders ended the Rams’ winning streak with a 3-1 win. Biglow knocked in CSU’s only run with an RBI single to right field. Three days later, the Rams got the chance to play at home for the first time since March 4, when they wrapped up the Colorado State Classic with a loss to Weber State. This time, the Northern Colorado Bears came to town to open a four-game non-conference series. The Rams hit three home runs in the third inning en route to an 8-0 win in five innings. The win marks the third time CSU has forced the mercy rule this year, as well as its second shutout victory. McCarthy once again pitched a complete game, her ninth of the year, and earned her 11th win.

Northern Colorado...
The Bears will enter Wednesday’s contest with an 0-1 record in the four-game series. After splitting a doubleheader with Weber State on Sunday, they are 17-17 and batting .291 as a team. They are 6-2 in Greeley this year. CSU and UNC also played four times last year and split the series, 2-2. The Rams’ first win came in an 8-3 victory in Las Cruces, N.M. at the Hotel Encanto Invitational, their first tournament of the 2011 season. The teams sqaured off again on March 26 in a doubleheader in which CSU took the second game, 9-5. Northern Colorado was tabbed to finish second in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference Mountain Division after posting a 13-7 conference record last year (17-35 overall). This season is the Bears’ third in the PCSC. Second-year head coach Mark Montgomery returns just one pitcher from last year and brings 13 new faces to the roster in 2012.

Milestones and Co-Pitcher of the Week...
With the complete-game win over UC Riverside on March 24, junior pitcher Kacie McCarthy became the CSU pitching staff’s first 10-game winner. On Tuesday, McCarthy was named Mountain West Co-Pitcher of the Week, sharing the honor with Boise State’s Aubray Zell. The honor marks the first time a Ram softball player has received one of the league’s weekly awards since Feb. 23, 2010, when then-senior Rebecca Penland was named Player of the Week. The last pitcher to get the honor was current senior Kelli Eubanks, who received it as a freshman in 2009.

Goodbye March...
After going just 4-11 in the opening month of the season, the Rams rebounded in March and went 13-7, including a three-game win streak at home and a four-game win streak at the UC Riverside tournament. As a team, the Rams batted a collective .271 with 83 RBI and 18 home runs. In the 2011 season, CSU went 3-16 in the month of March.

Strength of schedule...
Currently, five of the Rams’ 2012 opponents are ranked or receiving votes in the two national softball polls. Mountain West rival New Mexico, which has spent three total weeks on one or both of the national polls this season, is once again at No. 25 in the latest USA Today/NFCA poll. The Lobos also received seven votes in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll The Rams’ current record against ranked opponents is 0-4, the most recent decision coming in an 11-0 loss in five innings against then-No. 10 Stanford on March 10. On March 15, CSU defeated Pacific, which had received four votes in the latest USA Today/NFCA poll.

Hitting streaks...
Sophomore Ashlie Ortega still holds the longest overall hiting streak on the team with nine and has begun another by hitting safely in her last two games. The longest current streak belongs to sophomore Kendal Butterfield, who will look to extend a five-game hitting streak against Northern Colorado on Wednesday.

Patience is a virtue...
Sophomore catcher Emily Pohl leads the team in walks (30), nearly double those of sophomore Alysa Greckel, who has walked 16 times.

Beefed-up bullpen...
Junior Kacie McCarthy, who transfered from Chico State, continues to be an asset to the CSU pitching staff in her first season as a Ram, as she currently leads the staff in wins (11), strikeouts (68), innings pitched (88.1) and lowest ERA (2.85). McCarthy earned two complete-game victories without giving up an earned run for CSU at the UC Riverside tournament. In the Rams’ 1-0, tournament-opening win against Brown, McCarthy gave up two hits, both singles, struck out three and walked none. Starting in the third inning, she retired 12 batters in order to get through the sixth and led the team to its first shutout victory of the year. Her next outing was a six-hit performance against host UC Riverside in CSU’s 10-2, six-inning win. McCarthy gave up two unearned runs and struck out five to preserve her 0.00 tournament ERA and become the pitching staff’s first 10-game winner this season. The two wins in Riverside earned McCarthy Mountain West Co-Pitcher of the Week honors, marking the first time a Ram has received Player or Pitcher of the Week since Feb. 2010. McCarthy notched her 11th win with a two-hit shutout performance against Northern Colorado on Wednesday, going the distance for a ninth time. Junior Kailey Snyder also earned two wins at the UC Riverside tournament, including a 10-inning outing against Santa Clara on March 23. Snyder gave up one run in each of the first two frames, but held the Broncos scoreless through the following eight innings, leading the team to a 3-2 victory. Snyder also got the start in CSU’s 4-3 win over Brown on the final day of the tournament and tossed her fifth complete game of the year, holding the Bears to three earned runs and six hits over six innings. With a 5-0 record, Snyder is currently the only pitcher on the CSU staff with no losses.

In extras...
CSU’s 10-inning matchup with Santa Clara on March 23 marked the Rams’ second extra-inning affair of 2012. With the 3-2 win, CSU is now 2-0 in extras. The first of those wins came on Feb. 18, when sophomore Alysa Greckel drew a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the eighth to give the Rams a 15-14 win over Weber State at the Troy Cox Classic in Las Cruces, N.M.

Underclassmen...
With five freshmen and eight sophomores on the team, CSU’s underclassmen continue to produce. A freshman or sophomore currently leads the team in: batting average (Fr. Haley David, .354), slugging percentage (So. Alysa Greckel, .528), on-base percentage (David, .492), runs scored (So. Ashlie Ortega, 23), hits (Ortega, 38), RBI (So. Chelsea Biglow and Fr. Shae Rodriguez, 29), doubles (Ortega and Greckel, 9) home runs (Biglow, 6), walks (So. Emily Pohl, 30) and total bases (Greckel, 57).