Softball preview: CSU closes regular season in hunt for Mountain West title

The Colorado State softball team will finish the 2014 season with the program's fifth-best winning percentage, but the Rams also have the chance to clinch a conference championship.

The Colorado State softball team will finish the 2014 season with the program's fifth-best winning percentage, but the Rams also have the chance to clinch a conference championship.

May 7, 2014

Weekly Release (PDF)

Updated schedule following Thursday's postponement, Friday's suspended game:
San José State at Colorado State
| Friday, May 9 | W, 7-4
San José State at Colorado State | Saturday, May 10 | 10 a.m. MT | Video | Stats
San José State at Colorado State | Saturday, May 10 | 11 a.m. MT | Video | Stats - SENIOR DAY

SIZING UP SAN JOSÉ STATE

The Spartans sit in sixth place in the Mountain West standings, but just one game behind CSU and three games out of first place. They enter the week with a 28-23 overall mark, including 11-10 in conference play. San José State is coming off a 1-2 record against San Diego State this past weekend, most recently falling, 5-3. Throughout the conference season, San José State has not been on the winning or losing end of a sweep, never winning or losing more than two games in a row.

San José State leads the Mountain West in runs scored – one more than CSU. The Spartans rank in the middle of the pack in batting average and ERA (both fifth), but eighth in fielding percentage. Sophomore infielder Jessie Hufstetler’s .425 batting average ranks first in the MW, and her .534 on-base percentage is second and 19th nationally. Senior infielder Jessica Garcia has 52 RBI and 10 home runs, which rank third and sixth in the MW, respectively. In the circle, junior Allison Lang holds the Spartans’ top mark with a 10-4 record and 3.06 ERA (ninth in the MW).

CSU is 11-10 all-time against San José State. In addition to all three games this weekend being free to the public, those outside of the northern Colorado region can watch the action for free through the Mountain West Network.

FIGHTING FOR FIRST
CSU has the chance to accomplish a feat that hasn’t been done in more than a decade: win a conference championship. The margin of error is slim, and in order to do so the Rams will need to win and also get help from other teams in the conference.

Entering the week, five teams are still in contention for the title, all sitting within two games of each other. Boise State and Fresno State currently sit atop the MW standings with matching 14-7 records in league play. The Broncos own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Bulldogs thanks to their 2-1 series win back in April. San Diego State is a game back at 13-8, followed by CSU and UNLV, both at 12-9.

Boise State will play a three-game series at San Diego State, Fresno State is at Nevada and Utah State is at UNLV.

In order for CSU to earn a share of the 2014 Mountain West title:

  • CSU must sweep San Jose State
  • Nevada must win at least two of three games from Fresno State
  • San Diego State must take two of three from Boise State

In its history, CSU has won five regular-season or tournament conference titles: 1989, 1990, 1997, 2003 and 2004. The Rams, who were picked to finish tied for fourth in the league’s preseason poll, have finished in a second-place tie each of the past two seasons.

RECORD WINNING PERCENTAGE
The Rams have had a monumental season, regardless of what happens on the field this weekend. Here’s a look at some of the highlights thus far.

  • Third straight winning season.
  • Most wins since 2004 (40-14).
  • Best winning percentage since 2004 (.741).
  • Guaranteed to be the fifth-best winning percentage in CSU history.
  • Can rank between fifth and seventh in CSU history for wins.


SENIOR PRIDE

On Saturday, CSU’s six graduating seniors – Chelsea Biglow, Kendal Butterfield, Alysa Greckel, Chelsea O’Connor, Ashlie Ortega and Emily Pohl – will play their final game at Ram Field. The seniors will be recognized on the field following the game.

  • Biglow - Has played in 196 of CSU’s 197 games over the past four seasons, starting all 196... Is a two-time All-Mountain West selection... Has earned three Academic All-MW honors... Holds a lifetime batting average of .289 with 22 home runs and 120 RBI... With one RBI, can move into fifth place all-time in CSU history.
  • Butterfield - Has started 136 games for the Rams... Has scored 89 times and holds 18 stolen bases, the most on the Rams’ active roster... Owns a .935 fielding percentage... Has earned three Mountain West Scholar-Athlete honors.
  • Greckel - Has appeared in 192 games, starting 187... Holds a .294 career batting average, including .310 as a senior… Has driven in 86 runs... Holds a career fielding percentage of .978 with nearly 1,100 putouts... Is a two-time Mountain West Scholar-Athlete and three-time Academic All-MW selection.
  • O’Connor - In her only season playing for the Green and Gold, is hitting .320 with 11 home runs and 65 RBI... She needs two RBI to set a CSU single-season record... With one home run, she can move into a fourth-place tie for single-season history... Currently leads the nation with 1.41 RBI per game.
  • Ortega - Named to the Easton Fastpitch All-America second team in 2013... Is a two-time All-Mountain West selection... Has started 139 games in three seasons with the Rams... Has scored 105 runs and driven in 82, including six in one game this season.
  • Pohl - Earned All-Mountain West honors in 2012 and Academic All-MW selection in 2013... Has started 148 games for the Rams, but was limited her senior season due to an elbow injury... Holds 22 career home runs and 83 RBI.


DANGEROUS AT HOME

Between March 28 and April 22, CSU won 11 consecutive games at home. The streak ranked third in program history, trailing only runs of 20 (1996-97) and 15 (1988-89). A big reason for CSU’s success this season is the Rams’ home record, going 14-3 entering this weekend.

With a sweep of San José State this weekend, CSU will finish the season 17-3 at Ram Field, the most-ever home wins in a season. CSU also has the chance to finish with a home winning percentage north of .800 for the third time since 1997. The Rams went 15-2 (.882) in 2004 and a perfect 16-0 (1.000) in 1997 – both conference championship seasons.

O’CONNOR LEADS NATION IN RBI PER GAME
Just in her first season on the field for the Rams, senior outfielder Chelsea O’Connor has been an offensive threat, leading the team in home runs, RBI and slugging. Not only is O’Connor the offensive team leader, but the Windsor, Colo., native leads the nation with 1.41 RBI per game. Joining her high on the most recent NCAA stats report is freshman Haley Hutton, who leads the league and ranks 21st nationally with 1.04 runs per game.

The Rams are the only team in the Mountain West to rank in the top three in all phases of the game: batting average, ERA and fielding percentage. Additionally, the Rams lead the conference in slugging percentage (.487). For a complete release, see Page 4 of the PDF.

RECORDS UPDATE

Batting Average .311 (5th)
Runs Scored 280 (4th)
Doubles 75 (6th)
Triples 13 (5th)
Runs Batted In 252 (5th)
Slugging Percentage .487 (5th)
Fielding Percentage .963 (T-5th)
Haley Hutton 31 walks (2nd)
48 runs (T-5th)
.393 batting average (T-5th)
Chelsea O'Connor 65 RBI (2nd; one shy of 1st)
11 home runs (one shy of 4th)
Holly Reinke 19 wins (one shy of 3rd)


WEEKEND REWIND: FRESNO STATE
Playing their final road series of the regular season, the Rams went 1-2 against first-place Fresno State, earning a win in the series finale. CSU entered the weekend in a three-way tie for first place in the conference standings.

  • Game 1: The Rams held a 1-0 lead for most of the game Friday, but weren’t able to maintain it, allowing five sixth-inning runs – all coming with two outs. The Rams’ only run came in the third inning, and required zero hits. Outfielder Kendal Butterfield and second baseman Haley Hutton walked, putting two runners on base for center fielder Chelsea O’Connor, who reached base on a dropped third strike, allowing Butterfield to score. Holly Reinke kept Fresno State scoreless through five innings before the Bulldogs’ rally in the sixth.
  • Game 2: Once again, the Rams took an early lead, only to see it slip away. Outfielder Shae Rodriguez hit a two-run home run and third baseman Chelsea Biglow went 3-for-3 for the Rams. Trailing 3-2 in the sixth, CSU had a chance to rally but left the bases loaded. The Bulldogs would score four times in the bottom of the sixth to put the game out of reach. Larisa Petakoff started the game, pitching three and one-third innings and leaving with a 2-2 tie.
  • Game 3: CSU was able to salvage the weekend with a victory in the series finale. CSU scored early on a Chelsea O’Connor home run, and increased its lead to 4-0 in the second. Fresno State would make it interesting, however. With the Rams on top 8-4 heading into the bottom of the seventh, the Bulldogs scored three times in their last at-bat, and had the tying and winning runs on base when CSU secured the final out. Holly Reinke picked up her 19th win of the season with a complete game. Shae Rodriguez went 3-for-4 as CSU out-hit Fresno State, 14-6.


LOOKING AHEAD

Should CSU earn a sweep this weekend and get the needed help from other teams in the conference, the Rams could be in the postseason for the first time since 2003. The NCAA Selection Show will take place Sunday at 8 p.m. MT on ESPNU.


 

 

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