Softball preview: CSU travels to Utah State for Mountain West opener

The Colorado State softball team is off to its best start in 25 years. The Rams begin Mountain West play this weekend at Utah State.

The Colorado State softball team is off to its best start in 25 years. The Rams begin Mountain West play this weekend at Utah State.

March 20, 2014

Weekly Release (PDF)

Colorado State at Utah State | Friday, March 21 | 3 p.m. MT | Live Video | Stats
Colorado State at Utah State | Saturday, March 22 | 1 p.m. MT | Live Video | Stats
Colorado State at Utah State | Sunday, March 23 | 11 a.m. MT | Live Video | Stats
Colorado State at Northern Colorado | Tuesday, March 25 | 4 p.m. MT | Stats

MOUNTAIN WEST PLAY

After six weeks of non-conference action, the Rams will jump into their Mountain West slate, where they will aim to achieve their main goal – to win their first conference championship since 2004, and earn the league’s automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.

CSU, which was picked to finish fourth in the nine-team league, is coming off consecutive ties for second place. The back-to-back winnings seasons come following a 8-43 record during Head Coach Jen Fisher’s first year.

“We’ve made some large strides over the past couple of years, and I think these girls are finally starting to buy in to the process and believe in themselves,” Fisher said. “That’s the biggest thing – believing they can win. We can’t think about the big picture right now, because if we start thinking about our goal of winning the conference, we’ll lose. We just have to focus one game at a time.”

SCOUTING UTAH STATE
The Rams open up Mountain West play with conference newcomer Utah State. The Aggies are 10-13 on the season, but are riding a six-game winning streak. Utah State has yet to play at home. The Aggies have four players with double-digit RBI totals, including Victoria Saucedo and Paxton Provost, who are each hitting above .300 and slugging better than .500. Noelle Johnson is 9-8 in the circle, recording three shutouts and a 2.57 ERA. The Aggies lead the all-time series, 25-18.

All three of this weekend’s games can be streamed online for free through the Mountain West Network.

SCOUTING NORTHERN COLORADO
The Rams will step away from league play Tuesday for an intrastate matchup at Northern Colorado. The game, which was originally scheduled for March 11 but postponed due to snow, will begin at 4 p.m. MT.

The Bears enter the game with an 8-24 mark. Despite a poor overall record, however, they have won four of their last six. Erica Dick leads the Bears with a .316 batting average, 20 runs and 20 RBI. In the circle, Megan Wilkinson has started 13 games, going 3-9. CSU is 20-37 all-time against the Bears.

RECORD-SETTING START
Following a 5-0 weekend in Fresno, Calif., the Rams sit at 15-5 and in first place in the Mountain West standings heading into conference play. The Rams’ impressive record is the second-best through 20 games in program history, trailing only the 1989 squad, which started 16-4 en route to an HCAC championship.

GETTING ON THE BOARD
CSU is averaging 5.80 runs per game (36th nationally), compared to 3.45 for its opponents. The Rams have made it a habit to score early and maintain the lead, scoring in the first inning seven times (7-0), and going a perfect 10-0 when leading after the fourth inning.

CSU’s success is largely due to its efficiency in all phases of the game. The Rams rank in the top three in the Mountain West in batting average (.300; third), earned run average (2.98; third) and fielding percentage (.962; second).

PERFECT IN FRESNO
Already off to a hot start, the Rams went a perfect 5-0 in last weekend’s Fresno State Classic. The current five-game winning streak is the team’s longest of the season.

  • Game 1: Tied at 1-1 through three innings, CSU broke the game open in the fourth, scoring three times. The Rams would score twice more in the sixth, and hold on to defeat Cal Poly, 6-2, behind Holly Reinke’s complete game and Kendal Butterfield’s three hits and RBI.
  • Game 2: A seven-run third inning was more than enough for the Rams, who cruised to a 10-2 victory over Pacific. Chelsea O’Connor hit her third grand slam of the season and Larisa Petakoff tossed a complete game to earn her third straight win.
  • Game 3: Trailing early to Saint Mary’s, CSU scored three times in the third, including a Danielle Wikre two-run home run. Molly Randle and Larisa Petakoff teamed up in the circle, with Randle pitching four innings and earning the victory.
  • Game 4: The Rams again came from behind, scoring five runs in the fourth inning against New Mexico State, including another two-run home run by Danielle Wikre. Holly Reinke picked up her seventh win of the season with her sixth complete game.
  • Game 5: CSU upped its win streak to five with a 4-3 win over Ohio State. For the third straight game, CSU had to come from behind, trailing 3-0 early but scoring four times in the fourth. Ashlie Ortega went 2-for-2 with two RBI and Larisa Petakoff allowed just six base runners and two earned runs in a complete-game victory.


FRESHMEN AND FRESH STARTS
With a roster full of veteran leadership and back-to-back second place conference finishes, Head Coach Jen Fisher expected big things from the 2014 team. However, one of the biggest reasons for the Rams’ early success is some of the team’s newcomers.

Freshman second baseman has hit leadoff and started every game for the Rams. She leads the team in runs and stolen bases and ranks second in hits and walks. Hutton’s 21 runs scored rank fifth in the Mountain West. In the circle, freshman Larisa Petakoff has won four straight games, and holds five wins and seven complete games on the season. Her 2.26 ERA ranks sixth in the MW. While a senior Chelsea O’Connor is in her first year playing for the Rams, she already has hit three grand slams. Her 26 RBI rank third in the league, and her five home runs are tied for fourth.

LOOKING AHEAD
CSU will return to Ram Field for the second time this season, beginning a seven-game home stand. The Rams will host Boise State (March 28-30), followed by non-conference games against Northern Colorado (April 2) and UTEP (April 5-6). All games at Ram Field are free to the public. At 15-5, CSU has a chance to finish with one of the program’s top-ever non-conference winning percentages.


 

 

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