After watching from the dugout as Boise State scored a pair of two-out runs in the top of the seventh to rally for a 4-3 victory over Montana in game one of a doubleheader on Tuesday afternoon at Grizzly Softball Field, Michaela Hood had all the motivation she needed for her start in game two.
The freshman pitcher threw a complete-game gem, holding the nation’s seventh-ranked offense to just four hits, the Broncos’ second-lowest total of the season, as Montana earned a split with a 3-1 victory.
“I really wanted to hand it to them,” said Hood. “I watched their hitting the first game, so I kind of knew what I wanted to throw. They are a really good team, but I just came after them.”
Ashlyn Lyons drew a bases-loaded walk in the second, Delene Colburn had a leadoff home run to left center in the third, her fourth in the last five games, and Bethany Olea had a run-scoring single in the fifth.
That’s all Hood would need to win her fifth straight decision, improve to 6-2 and drop her ERA to 2.66.
“(Pitching coach Melanie Meuchel) has us throw to their weak spots. Some low, some out, some in, some high. And my rise (ball) was on top of it, so that made it hard for them to hit,” said Hood.
The win came at the right time, about two hours after Montana coach Jamie Pinkerton was probably wondering if he’d ever beat the Broncos, who had walk-off wins over the Grizzlies in Boise in both 2015 and ’16.
They won Tuesday’s opener in their final at-bat as well.
Starter Maddy Stensby held Boise State, who had scored 65 runs in their previous six games, largely in check and took a 3-2 lead into the top of the seventh.
She got the first two batters of the inning out before the Broncos forced the Grizzlies to make a play to earn the final out, and they couldn’t do it before giving up a pair of game-winning runs.
Izzy Serrano started the rally by putting a well-placed bunt down the third-base line. The next batter, Cassidy Edwards, did the same thing down the first-base line. Neither could be converted into the game-ending out by Montana’s infielders.
“I’m going to take that one,” said Pinkerton. “We have different bunt defenses, but they are riskier because the other team can start shooting balls by you. I was holding off and biding time, hoping we would get out of it.
“I should have made an adjustment. I kind of hung Stensby out. But tip the hat to them. They were in the right part of the order, and they executed.”
With runners at first and second and two outs, Boise State called on pinch hitter Jessica McKay, and she delivered a line drive to right center that barely eluded the extended glove of second baseman Gabby Martinez.
That brought in Serrano with the game-tying run, and Shaelee Pearson followed with a single through the left side to drive home Edwards with what would be the game-winning run.
It left Pinkerton feeling a little here-we-go-again déjà vu.
“What’s frustrating is that was the third time they’ve beaten us in their final at-bat,” he said. “The players don’t think about it, but it’s frustrating for the coaching staff for them to do that twice to us in Boise and then again in their final at-bat today.”
The Broncos went up 2-0 in game one with a deep drive to center in the top of the third by Makenzie Sullivan that drove in two.
It took Montana until the bottom of the fourth to score off Christina Washington, who entered the game with a sparkling 10-3 record and 2.18 ERA.
But even Washington was no match for Colburn’s hot bat. After Olea singled to short with one out in the bottom of the fourth, Colburn sent one high over the fence in left to tie the score at 2-2.
Montana took its first lead in the bottom of the sixth.
Madison Saacke doubled to left center with two outs and was replaced by pinch runner Katie Jo Waletzko. Alex Wardlow came through, dropping one down the left-field line. The throw from left beat Waletzko to the plate, but the catcher dropped the ball on the tag, putting Montana up 3-2.
A near win that turned into a loss spoiled an effective start by Stensby.
“You take away the five bunts they had and she scatters seven hits, and only one ball was hit deep,” said Pinkerton. “It was a good performance. She’s starting to come back and get a little stronger and put some innings together, and that’s going to help us.”
After Boise State (20-7) went with its No. 1 arm in game one, Montana (15-16) countered with Hood, who is becoming the Grizzlies’ top starter, in game two.
She limited a team that was hitting .353 to four hits in 26 at-bats and matched her season high with eight strikeouts while walking only two.
Boise State scored on a sacrifice fly in the top of the third to even the score at 1-1, but Colburn answered in the bottom half of the inning with a solo blast, and Hood, who allowed just one hit over the final four innings, had it from there.
“We knew they’d throw their ace in game one, so we were going to counter with Michaela in game two,” said Pinkerton. “She did an excellent job. I’m really proud of how she threw.
“Boise State is a good Mountain West team. The purpose of these games was to sharpen us for North Dakota, and I think they did that. We got better today.”
Montana will open its Big Sky Conference schedule this weekend at home against the Fighting Hawks. The teams will play a doubleheader on Saturday beginning at 1 p.m. and a single game on Sunday, also starting at 1 p.m.