Softball walks off with series sweep over Jackrabbits
BY Zach Bond
GREELEY -- The Northern Colorado softball team wrapped up a three-game sweep of South Dakota State in dramatic fashion Saturday afternoon with a 2-1 walk-off victory.
The win gave the Bears (15-14) four straight victories, all at home, and marked the second time in as many games that the team celebrated a walk-off hit. It was also the third game in a row the Bears won by the slimmest possible margin.
"I'm proud of the girls this weekend," Northern Colorado coach Mark Montgomery said. "All three games this weekend were nail-biters but we found a way to win them all. That shows a lot of belief and perseverance.
"I also love that it's a different person coming through every time -- that's the key to a good ball club and that's what we need to build upon."
For the second straight game, it was a freshman who stepped up with the game on the line and brought home a win, as Mikayla Duffy knocked a single into center field that scored Erin Geddis from second base. The hit was made all the more dramatic given the fact that there were two outs.
Geddis, a senior, got the rally started with a one out single before advancing to second after a Jamie Pollak walk.
On a day when the Bears' offense struggled -- managing just six hits on the day -- freshman pitcher Kelci Cheney picked up the slack with a complete-game effort. Getting her third win in as many games, Cheney threw all seven innings giving up no earned runs on just eight hits. She also racked up a career-high eight strikeouts.
The Terrell, Texas native has developed into a stopper for the Bears. Over her last seven appearances, she has given up just five earned runs in 32.2 innings of work.
"I think Kelci (Cheney) got better as the series went along," Montgomery said. "She pitched the first game and did an OK job, and pitched today and she was lights out. That's rare that a pitcher faces the same team twice and gets better the second game. That's a huge positive."
Offensively, the Bears were led by a pair of seniors: Geddis and Erin Wilkinson. Geddis was responsible for scoring the game-winning run and also notched another single to finish 2-for-4 from the plate. Wilkinson was the only Bear who hit with any kind of power as her two doubles were the only extra-base hits for Northern Colorado. She finished her day a perfect 2-for-2 with a run scored.
The Bears have almost battled through their entire non-conference schedule before turning their attention to Pacific Coast Softball Conference play. Their final non-conference tune-up comes on Wednesday, March 28 when they kick off their annual rivalry series with Colorado State.
The first of four games over the next month against the Rams comes in Fort Collins and is set to start at 4 p.m. Montgomery is looking forward to battling the instate-rivals again.
"It's just a great series with CSU," Montgomery said. "It's just fun and one of those games that records don't matter. You throw all that stuff out and it's just going to be a battle."