April 23, 2014
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – The Colorado State softball team completed its series against New Mexico with a 13-5 victory Wednesday, taking an early lead and ending with a grand finish during the five-inning game.
Leading 8-5 entering the bottom of the fifth inning, the Rams (29-11, 10-5 MW) scored five times – including a Danielle Wikre walk-off home run – to end the game due to mercy rule.
“They always show up to work hard, and today they were a little bit ticked off,” Head Coach Jen Fisher said. “When you do that to them, I guess you should be a little bit nervous; it’s like going into a hornets’ nest. The pitcher yesterday (Carrie Sheehan) did a good job; it’s just everyone was irritated that she made us look that bad.”
CSU took two of three from New Mexico (14-31, 5-13 MW) to win its fifth consecutive series. The Rams remain tied with Fresno State for first place in the Mountain West standings. San Diego State lost to UNLV on Wednesday, falling one game behind the Rams and Bulldogs.
Outfielder Chelsea O’Connor drove in a career-best five runs, also scoring three times. The senior went 3-for-4 at the plate with a home run while also making a difference in the field, throwing out a runner at the plate in the first inning.
Wikre drove in four runs, while sophomore catcher Jaelyn Manzanares – who also homered – plated two. Along with O’Connor, freshman Haley Hutton and senior Alysa Greckel had three hits in the win. Sophomore Holly Reinke gave up five runs, but was able to rely on her team’s offensive explosion to pick up her 17th win of the season.
CSU jumped out to an early lead, scoring six runs in the first inning. On the year, the Rams are 16-2 when scoring in the first inning, and are out-scoring their opponents 39-12 in the first frame.
“Getting on the board early helped us rebound from yesterday,” Fisher said. “When you work on something and it shows up in the game, it helps the team have that confidence.”
O’Connor, who ranks third in the country with 1.50 RBI per game, drove in the game’s first run, scoring Hutton, who singled to lead off the game. Following a Wikre sacrifice fly, senior Chelsea Biglow doubled through the right side to plate two. The Rams tacked on two more with Manzanres’ blast.
CSU made it 8-0 in the second, scoring a pair more thanks to O’Connor’s ninth home run of the year.
New Mexico didn’t fold, however, scoring five times over the new three innings, while holding the Rams scoreless in the third and fourth.
The Rams, though, found their groove again in the fifth, ending the game early due to an eight-run lead.
With just one on and two outs, Hutton singled to right field and junior Shae Rodriguez walked. That loaded the bases for O’Connor, who drove in two with a single up the middle. The next batter, Wikre, put an end to the game with her ninth blast of the year.
“Lately I haven’t been having the outcomes that I’ve wanted, so with that at-bat I was trying to take it one pitch at a time and not worry about the outcome,” Wikre said. “I just wanted to focus on the ball and make contact.”
Added Fisher: “I feel like we got a little more dialed in offensively. Sometimes people say that the midweek games are a lot, but I think it’s positive because it has helped our hitters get dialed in for the weekend. It’s the best type of preparation that we can have going into the weekend.”
CSU will now face its most challenging portion of the season, traveling to San Diego State this weekend before a three-game set at Fresno State. The two series will play a large part in determining the Mountain West’s champion and automatic qualifier for the NCAA tournament.
The Rams’ three-game series at San Diego State begins Friday at 7 p.m. MT.
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