CSURAMS.COM Preview: CSU heading to Vegas for DeMarini Desert Classic - Colorado State University Official Athletic Site Colorado State University Official Athletic Site - Softball
Preview: CSU heading to Vegas for DeMarini Desert Classic

Feb. 15, 2017

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Colorado State will spend its second weekend of the 2017 season in Las Vegas as the Rams will compete at the DeMarini Desert Classic. CSU will be tested by five teams in five games over three days.

The Rams went 2-3 at the Texas Classic last weekend, beating Maryland twice and losing to a pair of 2016 NCAA Tournament competitors - Texas and No. 14 Minnesota. Hannah McCorkhill hit a pair of homers (matching her 2016 season total), and Larisa Petakoff starred in the circle with a lowly 1.24 ERA for the tournament.

- CSU vs. Idaho State - This matchup will be the first game of the season for the Bengals. The two programs split two games last year at the 2016 Colorado State Classic, and will meet once more this season at the 2017 Colorado State Classic. Haley Hutton tripled in the win last year, while Taryn Arcarese provided 2 RBI. Idaho State finished second in the Big Sky last season and was picked by the league’s coaches to finish fourth this season.
- CSU vs. Northern Iowa - CSU is 2-3 all-time against Northern Iowa. The Panthers opened the season at home, going 4-1 last weekend with wins over Toledo, Montana, South Dakota State and Nebraska-Omaha and a one-run loss to Wisconsin, a future CSU opponent this season.
- CSU vs. Southern Utah - Southern Utah is spending its second consecutive weekend in Las Vegas. The Thunderbirds went 1-3 in the UNLV Sportco Kickoff Classic, beating Cal State Bakersfield but falling to Louisville, UNLV and Virginia Tech. CSU is 25-3 all-time against Southern Utah, but lost to the Thunderbirds in Las Vegas last season, 3-1. Hutton wnet 3-for-4 and McCorkhill 2-for-3 in the defeat.
- CSU vs. Hawai’i - Hawai’i hosted three teams for its opening weekend of play, going 2-1 with wins over Sacramento State and Boise State and a loss to Oregon State. They were also slated to play UAB and a rematch against the Broncos, but Mother Nature had other ideas, raining out each of the final games of the weekend. Hawai’i holds a 10-7 edge over the Rams in the all-time series.
- CSU vs. Weber State - Weber State went out to Long Beach, Calif., for its opening weekend, going 0-4-1 with the tie coming against host Long Beach State. Weather prevented a winner from emerging in the contest after a late Wildcats rally. The weekend featured three total losses to ranked teams (No. 22 Notre Dame and No. 8 UCLA), and a defeat at the bats of MW foe San Diego State. Weber State is 3-2 against CSU all-time.

On having to produce offense in a variety of ways...
“I think that is something that we have tried to stress this year. We need to have the long ball but still be able to execute when we need to. You practice that squeeze, you practice that hit and run because that one time you need it, and you are really going to need it. So you have to work on it, and it has to come from even some unexpected sources at time. That is our charge, to stay sharp on all that stuff because you never know when that is going to happen. You never know when your power is not going to be there and you are going to need to manufacture. Being students of the game is important for our players because they have to know what they are trying to accomplish because if you push a bunt right back to the pitcher it is an out, probably at second base, so they have to work on those things. But we have a good team that knows and wants to know and understand the ins-and-outs of the game, all the little details.”

On some things that stood out to her after the first weekend of play...
“I think (junior outfielder) Hayleigh Evans handled herself really well and came out of the weekend with the best batting average. I think also that Hannah (McCorkhill), Lauren (Buchanan) and Amber (Nelson) really showed they have that massive home-run potential and that is what we are looking for out of them. They are starting to feel it; things are starting to show up for them and it is only going to get better. The other thing I thought was that across the board was that all four of the pitchers really did a good job mixing speeds and hitting spots and I thought all four had moments where they were very effective. They had a few moments where we let the game get away from us with a few too many walks but for the most part all four looked sharp. I was very happy about that.”

On playing with a sense of urgency...
“There is always a learning curve for younger players and the key to being a great team is getting your players to all understand the urgency of this game, this practice, this pitch. Our seniors are giving their right arm to the program to try to win, and that is our charge as coaches, to get all the players to have that urgency.”

Senior shortstop Haley Hutton has made getting on base a habit during her career, holding an on base percentage of .508 over 156 games in a CSU uniform. She is tied for the team lead with a .571 mark in the category after the first weekend of play. The Colorado-born product has safely reached base at least once in 143 of her 156 career games, equaling 92 percent of her appearances.

The Rams finished their opening tournament with a .437 team on base percentage, the top mark in the MW and No. 27 in the NCAA. Four Rams with at least 9 at bats hold an on base percentage of .500 or greater - Haley Hutton, Amber Nelson, Taryn Arcarese and Hayleigh Evans. Hannah McCorkhill, who belted a pair of home runs at the Texas Classic, is just below the .500 mark at .471.

Fourth-year junior Larisa Petakoff had a stellar opening weekend, picking up both of CSU’s wins at the Texas Classic while sporting a 1.24 ERA. She allowed only a pair of earned runs over 11.1 innings of work and walked only three batters. She dominated Maryland on Feb. 11, throwing six scoreless innings and finishing the complete game while the Rams ran away with a 6-3 victory.

Junior Hannah McCorkhill exhibited some new power at the Texas Classic, matching her 2016 home run total with a pair of bombs over the left field fence. She hit one in each contest against Maryland, with the second one finding the foul pole in left field. McCorkhill finished the weekend with a slash line of .250/.471/750, topping the team in slugging percentage and RBI (9).

Four CSU players earned All-Mountain West recognition last season, and two of those stars return for the 2017 campaign. Shortstop Haley Hutton was a First Team honoree and earned her third consecutive all-league award ater leading the MW with a .525 on base percentage and ranking in the top five in both batting average (.419) and hits (62). She also stole a career-high 15 bases and drew 26 walks. Amber Nelson was a Second Team honoree after a sterling freshman season that included a team-best .507 on base percentage during MW play. Her 28 walks drawn ranked fourth in the conference and she was third on the team in batting average (.343) and doubles (11).

Senior Haley Hutton, a three-time All-MW honoree and shortstop extraordinaire, has already left her mark on the CSU record books. She is currently the all-time career batting average leader (.395), and holds two of the top five single-season marks in school history, including her .411 average in 2016, which ranks fourth. She also set the career bases on balls record last season, and now has 97 in her career. She will likely become the only Ram to eclipse 100 BBs in her career. She is also within reasonable striking distance of the top five in runs scored (needs 3 to tie for fifth), hits (needs 29 to tie for fifth) and stolen bases (needs two to tie for fifth).

CSU’s two seniors will hope to lead the team from their middle infield positions. Haley Hutton (shortstop) and Taryn Arcarese (second base), both Colorado natives, will give the Rams one of the best middle infield duos in the conference. The pair combined for 48 RBI and 100 hits last season, and both ranked in the top 10 in the MW in defensive assists. “They have been crucial to us for three years,” head coach Jen Fisher said about the duo. “They are crucial to us in the way they play, but they are so much more to us than their arm or their range. They are competitors and they want to win. It is so neat to see them work together and be great friends like they are. They have incredible instincts and competitiveness, and they are coachable. Their attitudes are great. As good of players as they are they are even better people. It is exciting to be going into this season with those two.”

With the exit of Holly Reinke, one of the most impactful pitchers in program history, CSU will have new faces step up to fill her void in the circle. Sophomore Bridgette Hutton returns as the most-used pitcher from a year ago, pitching in 23 games and 91 innings last season (4-11, 5.31 ERA). Fourth-year junior Larisa Petakoff will also make an impact after appearing in 10 games and 22.2 innings in 2016 with a 2-0 record. UC Riverside transfer Kaylynn Pierce will also be seen after going 9-4 with a 4.20 ERA for the Highlanders a year ago. Freshman Taylor Ward will likely eat up some middle innings for the Rams, as well. “We are going to put them all out there and see who gets outs and how they get them,” Fisher said about her pitching corps. “We just have to give them more run support. I think the pitchers have to have some pressure off of them, and then we should be good to go.”

The Rams added former Arkansas standout catcher Whitney Cloer as an Assistant Coach this summer. Cloer comes to CSU after serving as the assistant coach and assistant general manager for the Scrap Yard Dawgs of National Pro Fastpitch, where she had been since last August. The former standout catcher at Arkansas (2005-09) has quickly made an impact on the team. “I like everything about the system that she has put in. It is very simple and our players are really adjusting well to that system of hitting so I think it is going to be positive on that end,” Fisher said about her new assistant. “She has a great background and spent some time in the SEC. She’s been a great addition to our program.”

CSU went 22-24 (8-12 MW) in 2016. The season featured a 5-10 start followed by an 11-2 stretch in the month of March. The 8-12 league mark put the Rams in sixth place in the MW, but only two games out of the No. 3 spot. Haley Hutton and Jaelyn Manzanares were First Team All-MW honorees, while Kristina Akiona and Amber Nelson landed on the Second Team. The Rams closed the season with a road sweep of UNLV, including a no-hitter for senior Holly Reinke. Overall, the Rams won four of their final five contests after a six-game losing streak at the end of April.

The league’s coaches pegged CSU to finish tied for sixth with UNLV in the MW in 2017. CSU totaled 27 points in the poll. Positions 4-8 were separated by just seven points, which could be foreshadowing to a tight MW race this season. Fresno State was picked to win its third league title in a row, but just narrowly over San Diego State and San Jose State. The Bulldogs accrued 59 points and four of the nine possible first-place votes, with SDSU (three first-place votes) and SJSU (two) splitting up the rest. The Rams (8-12 MW record) finished just two games out of a top-three finish in the conference in 2016, but wound up finishing sixth in the tightly-contested middle portion of the MW standings.

The Rams will have a week off before hosting Northern Colorado in a home debut at Ram Field on Feb. 28. CSU will then host its first home tournament, the Colorado State Classic I, March 3-5.



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