Softball preview: CSU continues Mountain West action

SO Ashlie Ortega currently leads the team with a .338 batting average

SO Ashlie Ortega currently leads the team with a .338 batting average

April 17, 2012

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Coming up...
The Rams will have three opportunities this weekend to pick up their first Mountain West Conference win of 2012 as CSU welcomes MW newcomer Boise State for a three-game series in Fort Collins. The series begins on Friday at 4 p.m. MT and will continue with a game each on Saturday and Sunday. Both games are scheduled for 1 p.m. MT.

Previously...
CSU lost all three matchups with San Diego State in 2011, and the defending MW champions continued their winning ways against the Rams on Saturday and Sunday. The Rams opened up their 2012 conference schedule in San Diego a day late, however, due to inclement weather and unplayable field conditions. As a result, the conference opener became part of a doubleheader on Saturday. The Rams kept it close in both games, but ultimately could not score enough to overcome the Aztecs and finished Saturday with a pair of one-run losses. CSU nearly staged a comeback in the first game by putting three on the board in the seventh inning to force a pitching change, but SDSU reliever Rebecca Arbino induced a ground-out to end the rally and give the Aztecs a 4-3 win. CSU junior Kacie McCarthy pitched her 11th complete game of the year, giving up three earned runs, walking two and striking out one. The losing decision was McCarthy’s first since March 10, when she gave up five runs, two earned, against Ole Miss in a 5-2 loss at the Stanford Louisville Slugger Classic. In Game 2, the Rams struck first, this time putting up three runs in the first inning. The Rams led, 4-2, going into the bottom of the fifth, but the Aztecs responded with a single and a three-run home run off of CSU reliever Kelli Eubanks to take a 6-4 lead that they did not relinquish. Eubanks took the loss, dropping to 1-7 on the season. Freshman Molly Randle made her 11th appearance of the year and seventh start in the circle for CSU and gave up five hits and two runs over 2.1 innings of work. The Rams finished the weekend with a 4-1 loss in the third game, freshman Taylor Hutton representing CSU’s one and only run. After being brought in as a pinch runner, Hutton advanced to second, advanced to third on a fielding error by the SDSU rightfielder and scored, unearned, on a single from sophomore Kendal Butterfield. McCarthy went the distance for the 12th time this season, but received her seventh losing decision of 2012 as the Aztecs completed the sweep. The Rams headed home Sunday night, but were back in action on Monday afternoon in a back-and-forth, extra-inning thriller against non-conference opponent Portland State. CSU struck first with four runs in the opening frame, but lost the lead in the in the sixth when PSU sophomore Carly McEachran doubled off of CSU’s Molly Randle to push two runs across and give the Vikings a 9-7 edge. The Rams then tied it back up with a two-run double from sophomore Chelsea Biglow, forcing the game into extras. Sophomore Ashlie Ortega (4-for-4) doubled in the bottom of the eighth to knock in freshman Haley David and give the Rams their fourth walk-off win of the year. CSU is also now 3-0 in extra-inning affairs.

Boise State...
The Broncos have made an impression on the Mountain West in their first season as part of the conference, as they currently sit atop the standings with a 29-13 record. They most recently completed a three-game sweep of UNLV to notch a 3-0 conference record. Last season, BSU finished its final year in the Western Athletic Conference with a 33-20 overall record and 15-6 conference record, good for third place in the final standings behind Fresno State and New Mexico State. The Broncos are currently hitting .288 as a team and the pitching staff posts a collective 2.78 ERA. Senior Aubray Zell leads the staff with a 1.95 ERA and a 17-8 record, including a complete-game, three-hit win over UNLV on Friday. Zell has received Mountain West Pitcher of the Week honors four times, including Co-Pitcher of the Week, which she shared with CSU’s Kacie McCarthy on March 27. Sophomore centerfielder Tara Glover received her second MW Player of the Week honor on Tuesday after batting .700 from her leadoff position in the sweep over the Rebels. Senior pitcher and first-baseman Allie Crump has also been named Player of the Week this season (March 20). Sophomore Devon Bridges was named to the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Watch List by the Amateur Softball Association of America on Feb. 1. Bridges is the first player in school history to earn the distinction.

Conference play last season...
The Rams struggled as a team overall in 2011, winning just eight games total. Conference play was no exception, as they ended the year with a 1-14 record in the Mountain West. Their lone win came in a 15-14 victory over then-MW rival Utah, which also marked CSU’s first win in nearly six weeks. The conference lost BYU and Utah this season, but with the addition of Boise State, the conference currently consists of five teams.

Conference standings...
After completing three-game sweeps in the opening weekend of conference play, Boise State and San Diego Sate both lead the conference standings. BSU has the edge, posting a 29-13 record to SDSU’s record of 21-19. New Mexico (24-11), who has spent time on both national softball polls and the top of the MW standings, has since moved down to the third spot. Rounding out the current standings are CSU and UNLV. The Rebels were tabbed to finish second in 2012 pre-season poll.

Moving up in the Mountain West...
With a win over Northern Colorado on April 4, the Rams moved up one spot in the Mountain West rankings, moving past San Diego State for fourth place. The Aztecs have sinced moved up to second place with the three-game sweep of the Rams, but CSU is still currently in the fourth spot, now above UNLV.

Strength of schedule...
Currently, four of the Rams’ 2012 opponents are ranked or receiving votes in the two national softball polls. Mountain West rival New Mexico has spent time at either No. 24 or No. 25 on both national softball polls, but has since dropped out of the top 25. Northern Iowa is the latest CSU opponent to receive national votes, picking up five in the latest USA Today/NFCA poll. UNI took part in the 2012 Colorado State Classic in Fort Collins, and the Rams took one of two games from the Panthers in a 16-13 victory on March 3. CSU’s current record against ranked opponents is 0-4, the most recent decision coming in an 11-0 loss in five innings against then-No. 10 Stanford on March 10. On March 15, CSU defeated Pacific, which had received four votes in the latest USA Today/NFCA poll.

Hitting streaks...
Sophomore Kendal Butterfield extended her seven-game hitting streak to a team-high 10 by hitting safely in all three games against San Diego State, but went 0-for-5 against Portland State on Monday, snapping the streak. Sophomore Ashlie Ortega holds the longest current hit streak with eight and the second-longest overall streak (nine).

Beefed-up bullpen...
Junior Kacie McCarthy, who transfered from Chico State, continues to be an asset to the CSU pitching staff in her first season as a Ram, as she currently leads the staff in wins (12), strikeouts (72), innings pitched (107.1) and lowest ERA (2.93). McCarthy’s pitching kept the Rams in the two games she started against San Diego State, but ultimately resulted in her sixth and seventh losses of the year. McCarthy started Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader and pitched her 11th complete game of the year, giving up three earned runs, walking two and striking out one in the Rams’ 4-3 loss. The losing decision was McCarthy’s first since March 10, when she gave up five runs, two earned, against Ole Miss in a 5-2 loss at the Stanford Louisville Slugger Classic. On Sunday, McCarthy gave up one run through the first five innings, but a bases-loaded triple from SDSU freshman Kayla Jordan sealed the Aztecs’ 4-1 win and the series sweep. Junior Kailey Snyder continues to perform well in the circle, most recently receving the winning decision in Monday’s 10-9 extra-inning walk-off win. Snyder-the Rams’ fourth pitcher of the game-replaced freshman Molly Randle in the eighth with no outs and the bases loaded and retired the next three batters in a row with a pop-up, strikeout and a diving catch made by freshman second-baseman Haley David. At 7-0, Snyder is the only pitcher on the staff with no losses.


 

 

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