Montana softball: Griz finish sweep of Bears with big hits

Montana scored 20 runs and had 24 hits in games two and three as the Grizzlies batted .373 for the series. (GoGriz.com)

By GoGriz.com

On a day when staff ace Michaela Hood collected her 12th win but wasn’t at her sharpest, it was the offense that picked up the slack and delivered a win for Montana as it finished off a three-game sweep of Northern Colorado with an 11-5 victory on Saturday afternoon at Grizzly Softball Field.

The Grizzlies, who staked Hood to a 4-0 lead after the first inning, pounded out 11 hits, five of them for extra bases, to record their second-highest scoring game of the season.

After opening the series with a 1-0 victory in the first game of a doubleheader on Friday, behind a one-hit complete game from Hood, Montana scored 20 runs and had 24 hits in games two and three as the Grizzlies batted .373 for the series.

“The pitching staff has done a great job over the course of the last month. There have been days they’ve gone out there and the offense hasn’t given them a lot of support. And we’ve also given them just enough where they haven’t pitched with comfort,” said coach Jamie Pinkerton.

“The lineup up and down, especially in games two and three in this series, was the key to us winning.”

In the series opener on Friday, Northern Colorado’s Jayme Reddacliff held Montana to one run as she threw a complete game. The Grizzlies knocked her out of Saturday’s game before the first inning was over.

Gabby Martinez and Ashlyn Lyons both went the opposite way, down the left-field line, to lead off Montana’s half of the inning, with Martinez making it 1-0 on Lyons’ double.

Lyons scored on a sharply hit single by Sydney Stites. Madison Saacke, who went 3 for 3 with two RBIs and one run scored, drove in Bethany Olea with a single up the middle, and Stites made it 4-0 when she scored on an illegal pitch by Valerie Vidal, who replaced Reddacliff with one out.

That gave Hood plenty to work with, and she would need the buffer. She put two runners on base in the second and gave up one run in the third on an RBI double and one in the fifth on a home run by Erica Dick that made it 4-2. It was just the fourth home run allowed by Hood this season.

With its lead cut in half, Montana scored four more in the bottom of the fifth, two coming on Delene Colburn‘s second home run in two games, her team-leading 11th of the season. It brought in Olea, who led off the inning with a deep drive to center that just missed going out but landed her on third.

Montana scored two more runs in the inning on a sacrifice fly by Alex Wardlow and a groundout by Morgan Johnson.

With Montana up 8-2 and Hood laboring, Pinkerton made the decision to send his starter back out for the sixth. She gave up two runs on three hits before being relieved by Maddy Stensby.

“She came off in the fifth and said she could go,” Pinkerton explained. “I sensed she was done, but an athlete is not going to pull themselves, so those last three runs were on me. I probably should have got her some help earlier.”

With two runners still on base in the sixth, Stensby got Dick, suddenly the potential tying run, to fly out to left field to end the threat.

The Grizzlies answered the Bears’ three runs in the top of the sixth with three of their own in the bottom half. Saacke singled to right center to score Olea, and Dani Walker lined one to the fence in right center for a triple that scored Saacke and Colburn for the game’s final runs.

Nine players had hits in Friday’s 9-4 victory. In Saturday’s win, the team’s 11 hits came from eight players, with Saacke collecting three, Colburn two. Olea, who walked three times, went 1 for 1 with three runs scored.

Montana (24-19, 9-3 BSC) has won five straight, its longest winning streak of the season, and picked up its fourth series win in four Big Sky weekends, its first by sweep.

The Grizzlies remain a half game up in the league standings on Weber State (24-13-1, 8-3 BSC), which had its own home sweep on the weekend, outscoring Portland State 36-4 to take three lopsided wins in Ogden.

Montana will play its second Big Sky road series of the season next weekend when the Grizzlies play at Portland State (6-28, 4-8 BSC). The teams will play a doubleheader on Saturday, a single game on Sunday. Action begins each day at 2 p.m. (MT).