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Griz softball: Montana opens series with doubleheader sweep

The teams will play a final game on Sunday. The game is scheduled for 2 p.m. (MT) but the start time could be adjusted based on the weather forecast. (GoGriz.com)

By GoGriz.com

Montana scored the winning run against Portland State on a hit-by-pitch in the eighth inning of game one and on a wild pitch in the eighth inning in game two as the Grizzlies opened their three-game series against the Vikings at Hillsboro, Ore., with a pair of one-run victories on Saturday.

Montana (26-19, 11-3 BSC) won the opener 4-3 behind a complete-game pitching performance from Michaela Hood. Colleen Driscoll followed with a complete game of her own as the Grizzlies won 2-1 for their seventh consecutive victory and fifth series win in five Big Sky Conference weekends.

“Pitching carried the day,” said coach Jamie Pinkerton, whose team is tied with Weber State atop the league standings after the Wildcats finished off a three-game sweep at Idaho State on Friday and Saturday. “If we don’t have either pitching performance today, we don’t win.”

Portland State (6-31, 4-10 BSC), at least the Vikings’ pitchers, didn’t look anything like the team that went to Weber State last weekend and got outscored 36-4.

Three pitchers combined to hold Montana mostly in check in game one, and Alyssa Burk took the loss in game two despite limiting the Grizzlies to three hits over eight innings.

“They were coming off a rough series, but their pitchers did an excellent job today. We took advantage of just enough of the things they gave us that we were able to win late,” said Pinkerton, whose team left 18 runners on base in the two games.

“We had plenty of scoring opportunities we didn’t take advantage of, and at some point that’s going to bite us, but right now we’re playing good, quality softball and have won seven in a row.”

Montana gave Hood a 2-0 lead in the opener, going up 1-0 in the second when Madison Saacke‘s double was followed by a double off the bat of Dani Walker. Bethany Olea made it 2-0 with an RBI single in the third, an inning that had Portland State getting a pair of force-outs at home.

Portland State evened it at 2-2 in the bottom of the third. The Vikings opened the inning with back-to-back doubles to score one run, a groundout to score the other.

Following a 40-minute rain delay after the bottom of the fifth, Saacke broke the tie in the top of the sixth with her fourth home run of the season.

Hood made it through the bottom of the sixth and struck out the first two batters she faced in the bottom of the seventh, but the Vikings put together three straight singles to push the tying run across and force the game into extra innings.

Montana scored the winning run in the top of the eighth without putting the ball in play. Walker and Alex Wardlow walked with one out and advanced to second and third on a wild pitch.

Gabby Martinez walked with two outs, and Ashlyn Lyons picked up an RBI when she was hit by a pitch.

Hood, who struck out 10 while allowing six hits, put Portland State down in order in the bottom of the eighth to improve to 13-4.

“There were some opportunities early in both games we didn’t take advantage of that would have made the innings less stressful on our pitchers and our team and everybody involved,” said Pinkerton.

Driscoll gave up a run in the bottom of the first in game two when she allowed three hits, but that would be the only run the Vikings would get.

Driscoll, from nearby Vancouver, Wash., didn’t record a single strikeout in eight innings, but she also didn’t walk anyone. Of PSU’s 24 outs, 20 came by groundout.

Montana tied it 1-1 in the top of the third on Bethany Olea‘s second home run of the season.

Portland State put runners in scoring position in the third, fourth and sixth innings but couldn’t break through against Driscoll.

“She scattered hits and did a great job of buckling down when she needed to,” said Pinkerton. “They would get one hit, sometimes two, in an inning, and we were able to get out of it.

“She made great pitches when she had to make a good pitch to get out of a jam.”

Montana generated its second win with another eighth-inning rally. After Lyons led off the inning with a single up the middle, Olea sacrificed pinch runner Kylie Hayton to second. Hayton advanced to third on a wild pitch and later scored on a wild pitch.

The Vikings led off the bottom of the eighth with a double but opted not to sacrifice the runner to third. After a line out to third base, a groundout to second moved the potential tying run to third with two outs. Driscoll (5-5) got the final out of the game on a fly out to left field.

It was the seventh consecutive loss for Portland State, which has 11 freshmen and is playing for a first-year coach.

“I tip my hat to Portland State,” said Pinkerton. “They were gritty, and they played hard. I see a lot of us from a couple of years ago in them.”

The teams will play a final game on Sunday. The game is scheduled for 2 p.m. (MT) but the start time could be adjusted based on the weather forecast.