The Rams honored their six graduating seniors Saturday, who helped turn the program into a perennial conference-title contender.
May 10, 2014
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FORT COLLINS, Colo. – The Colorado State softball team closed its monumental 2014 season on Saturday, dropping a pair of contests to San José State. CSU concluded the year with a 32-17 mark, the most wins since 2004 and the fifth-best winning percentage (.653) in program history.
“We hit four or five balls right at them, and we made a lot of loud outs early,” Head Coach Jen Fisher said. “I think we had dug ourselves too big of a hole; it definitely wasn’t due to lack of effort or focus. This team has fought hard all year, and today was no different. I’m proud of what we accomplished this year.”
Entering the day with a chance to clinch a share of the Mountain West title, the Rams (32-17, 13-11 MW) began the day during the sixth inning of Friday’s suspended game.
Trailing 9-6, neither team was able to score over the final two frames, despite the Rams having two runners in scoring position in the sixth.
Freshman Haley Hutton hit a grand slam in the game, finishing with three hits and four RBI. Junior Shae Rodriguez drove in the other two runs. Holly Reinke (20-10) took the loss, pitching the final three innings.
“We were in the conversation for a conference championship on the final day of the season,” Fisher said. “It’s unfortunate we didn’t secure another win here or there, but I’m proud that we were in it until the very end. Our team has a lot of character, they do a lot of community service hours . . . I think we created a culture of fighters who don’t give up; they get the most out of their God-given talent.”
Immediately following the first game, the two teams squared off again for the series and season finale.
The Rams’ six graduating seniors – Kendal Butterfield, Chelsea Biglow, Alysa Greckel, Chelsea O’Connor, Ashlie Ortega and Emily Pohl – warmed up with members of their families in left field, and threw a ceremonial first pitch to another family member before the game.
The six batted consecutively in the lineup, including Pohl, who hadn’t played due to injury since March and wasn’t able to start a game since the season’s opening weekend due.
Junior Molly Randle took a no-hitter into the fourth inning, but the Spartans (30-24, 13-11 MW) were able to crack the code with one run in the fourth, two in the fifth and one in the sixth to build a 4-0 lead.
“Molly’s capable of what she showed over those first couple of innings,” Fisher said. “It was good to give them a different look since they had been seeing so much of Holly. They struggled with it initially. We’re looking forward to Molly being a senior.”
Despite trailing 4-0, the Rams were never out of it. Four batters reached base in the sixth inning, but CSU was only able to score once – a Hutton RBI single – leaving two on base.
Randle (5-3) pitched six innings before being relieved by Larisa Petakoff, who tossed a perfect seventh. The Rams recorded nine hits on the day – including three from Hutton and two from O’Connor, who also made an amazing diving catch in the fifth, diving onto the warning track to save an extra-base hit.
Following the game, the team honored its seniors, including four who have been with the program the past four seasons.
“It’s really hard to say goodbye, because I started at OJC (Otero Junior College) and spent three years at Metro State, so this is the first time that I’ve seen the freshmen become seniors,” Fisher said. “For those four, it’s really hard because they stuck it out after a tough season. Their resiliency, fight, and commitment to this program could not make me prouder.”
Following an 8-43 record in 2011 – Fisher’s first in Fort Collins – the Rams have quickly turned the corner under the leadership of this senior class, finishing tied for second in the Mountain West in 2012 and 2013, and being in contention during the season’s final day this year.
The 2014 season was filled with many feats, including the most wins and highest winning percentage in more than a decade. Additionally, CSU’s 15 home wins were the third-most since 1997, and included an 11-game home winning streak in March and April.
As a team, CSU ranked among the top offensive teams in recent memory, ranking third in program history in runs (294) and RBI (266), fourth in batting average (.313) and doubles (80), and fifth in triples (13) and slugging percentage (.485). The Rams’ .964 fielding percentage was fourth-best, as was their eight-game winning streak during the season.
Individually, O’Connor – who leads the nation with 1.41 RBI per game as of this week – tied a CSU single-season record with 66 RBI. Reinke’s 20 wins are tied for second while Hutton ranks second in single-season annals for walks (33), third for batting average (.413), and fifth for runs scored (52).
“We had a great crowd today,” Fisher said. “I know that Rambition put on the Lupus walk, and today just felt really special. When I drove out to the field this morning it was a beautiful day. It was great to see a lot of kids and people from the community getting on board. That’s what these seniors have done; they’ve created some excitement over the past three years for Rams softball. It’s hard to say goodbye to them, but I’m thankful for them and am excited for the future of our program.”
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