Montana softball: Hood repeats as Big Sky Pitcher of the Week

Michaela Hood went 7-1 on Montana’s just-completed 14-game home stand and dropped her ERA from a season-high 3.39 after the Grizzlies’ loss to California on March 10 in Tulsa to its current 2.23, which ranks second in the Big Sky behind the 2.22 of North Dakota’s Kaylin VanDomelan. (GoGriz.com)

By GoGriz.com

Montana freshman Michaela Hood earned her second Big Sky Conference Pitcher of the Week honor in two weeks on Monday after throwing through a full scope of pitching experiences last weekend against Southern Utah.

She was a dominant starting pitcher in game one, holding the Thunderbirds to three hits over seven innings while striking out nine. She pitched two innings of shutdown, one-hit relief in game two and made it through six innings as a starter in game three when she didn’t have her best stuff.

Hood finished the week with a 1-1 record and ERA of 1.40, striking out 16 in 15 innings of work as Montana went 2-1 against SUU at Grizzly Softball Field to improve to 4-2 in the Big Sky and remain within one in the loss column of league leader Weber State (4-1).

“There was definitely a wide range for her, from pitching well to having to really battle to get outs,” said coach Jamie Pinkerton.

Hood opened the weekend taking the hard-luck loss in a pitchers’ duel in the series opener, when a misplayed fly ball to the outfield in the top of the sixth scored two unearned runs in what would be the game’s only scoring as Southern Utah starter Kirsten Hostetler shut out the Grizzlies on two hits.

The teams were locked in a 2-2 tie going into the bottom of the fifth in game two until Sydney Stites‘s three-run, inside-the-park home run in the bottom half of the inning put Montana up 5-2.

Hood pitched the sixth and seventh innings in relief, giving up one hit to pick up her third save of the season.

“She had great stuff in game one, then came in in a different situation in game two and was able to go two scoreless for us,” said Pinkerton.

Hood was right back at it on Saturday afternoon, once again facing Hostetler. Neither starter had the success she enjoyed on Friday, but Hood did a better job of minimizing the Thunderbirds’ opportunities they created.

She gave up two runs on four hits in the top of the third as Montana fell behind 2-1, but the Grizzlies took control with a five-run fourth.

With Montana leading 8-2 going into the top of the seventh, Hood gave up a walk and back-to-back singles as Southern Utah loaded the bases with nobody out.

Hood was relieved by Colleen Driscoll, who allowed just one of the three inherited base runners to score as the Grizzlies closed out the series with an 8-3 win.

“On Saturday she fought her control a little bit. She was crossing up the catcher and didn’t have her best command, but she was able to corral it enough to give us six strong,” said Pinkerton, who has used Hood in five of Montana’s six Big Sky games for a total of 29 innings over the last two weekends.

“She didn’t have her best control, and I think familiarity led to some hits. And we used her a lot more than usual the last two weeks. I think she just got tired.”

Hood went 7-1 on Montana’s just-completed 14-game home stand and dropped her ERA from a season-high 3.39 after the Grizzlies’ loss to California on March 10 in Tulsa to its current 2.23, which ranks second in the Big Sky behind the 2.22 of North Dakota’s Kaylin VanDomelan.

Hood’s nine wins rank second in the Big Sky, her 91 strikeouts are tied for second.

Montana’s team ERA, which was 5.26 last year, is down to 3.65 this season, which ranks second in the conference. The Grizzlies will face the team with the league’s best ERA, Sacramento State, which is at 3.05, this weekend on the road.

The Grizzlies and Hornets, who are 2-3 in league, 12-17-1 overall, will play a doubleheader on Saturday starting at 1 p.m. (MT) and a single game on Sunday, also at 1 p.m. (MT).