Softball splits with 'Cats at home on opening day of PCSC play
By ZACH BOND
GREELEY -- The Northern Colorado softball program couldn't have opened up conference play with two more different looking games after splitting the team's first PCSC doubleheader at home to Weber State on Saturday afternoon.
In the first game, the Bears (16-16, 1-1 PCSC) got blown out, but bounced back with a vengeance in the second -- eight-run ruling the Wildcats in five innings, 12-4.
In that game, the Bears offense was unstoppable, as all nine batters in the lineup got a hit, with the team grinding out 11 hits total. Senior Alex Neely was one of the key producers -- smashing her third homerun of the season in the route.
Neely's homerun, a two-run shot and her second of the day, actually broke open up the scoring for the Bears in the first inning. After shutting down Weber State in the top-half of the frame, Neely's homer scored Erin Geddis to give Northern Colorado an early 2-0 lead.
"Getting out to a couple run lead at least helped us feel a little more comfortable as the first couple innings went along," Northern Colorado coach Mark Montgomery said. "And then when (Weber State) came back and scored a couple, I think the most positive thing in the whole game was that we came back and had that big inning to build our lead."
Freshman Kelci Cheney was solid once again in the circle for the Bears, getting the complete-game victory -- her fourth-straight appearance with a win. She finished the game giving up three earned runs on seven hits and two walks. She also struck out five Wildcats -- giving her 21 K's in her last four appearances.
"I was exceptionally proud of Kelci today," Montgomery said. "I think she gets stronger as the game goes on. Her last inning was stronger than her first inning. I thought she did a great job going up against their heart of the order."
The surging Northern Colorado offense was aided by a huge two-out rally in the third inning. The Bears immediately had their backs against the wall in the frame as the first two batters flied out. But from there, the next seven Bears reached base.
After the smoke cleared, Northern Colorado, leading just 3-2 heading into the inning, had tacked on six more runs -- with the final two coming on a Melissa Marcovecchio double. The Bears would never look back after that.
Up 9-4 going in the fifth, it was clear Northern Colorado intended on ending the game early and scored the game's final three runs to enact the eight-run rule. Geddis was the one who ended the game -- roping a ball into the left center gap with the bases loaded. The hit would have been at least a double with multiple runs scoring had the game not ended as soon as the first runner scored.
In the opening game of the four-game series, the Bears were plagued by several defensive mistakes in a 15-6 five-inning loss.
The Northern Colorado defense made four errors in the game -- including two in the first inning in which the Wildcats scored four runs to get out to an early lead. In fact, the Bears gave up four runs in each of the first three innings to dig themselves a 12-1 hole that was much too deep to get out of.
Weber State showed a knack for coming up with huge hits with runners in scoring position -- hitting two grand-slams and a bases-clearing triple to take the big lead.
Mikayla Duffy was the pitcher on the wrong end of those defensive mistakes, as she gave up six runs (five earned) in her one inning of work.
Neely played well in the first game too -- going 2-for-3 with a homerun, two runs scored and two RBI. On the day, the senior racked up four RBI on two homeruns. She also scored three runs total.
The Bears will look to get a series win in its PCSC opener with the final two games against Weber State on Sunday at Butler-Hancock Softball Field. The first game of the doubleheader is set for noon.