April 10, 2011

Softball continues turnaround with two more wins

Game one box | Game two box | NC season stats

GREELEY -- Northern Colorado softball scored four times in the top of the ninth inning Sunday to win 8-4 against Idaho State and complete an impressive four-game sweep at Butler-Hancock Softball Field.

The Bears, who started the day with a 9-5 victory against the Bengals, moved to 4-0 in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference after entering league play with a 3-28 record.

Kailee Vessey led Northern Colorado at the plate with a 7-for-8 day, including a home run in game one, and Kelli Henderson (10 innings, four earned runs) stood out in the circle.

"Our girls know how important the conference season is," Northern Colorado coach Mark Montgomery said. "We would have liked to play a bit better before this weekend, but for us, this is what it's all about.

"I think our men's and women's basketball teams showed that this year, and our girls definitely looked to that before yesterday. That shows us it's definitely possible."

The Bears (7-28, 4-0) followed Northern Colorado's men's and women's basketball lead Sunday by overcoming a 3-0 deficit after five innings with two runs in the sixth and two more in the seventh to take a 4-3 lead.

Idaho State (6-23, 0-4) pushed the tying run across in the bottom of the seventh and both teams went quietly in the eighth.

The Bengals committed two errors in Northern Colorado's ninth, and the Bears scored four times to improve to 7-1 against Idaho State over the last two seasons.

Liz Smith started the Bears' ninth with a single up the middle, and Erin Geddis followed with a bunt single to third. After Erin Wilkinson fouled out to short, Kelli Henderson hit a shot to second that wasn't fielded cleanly, and Smith scored the winning run all the way from second.

Megan Wilkinson then hit a sharp grounder to Idaho State's pitcher Erin Oleander, who overthrew first base, allowing Geddis to score.

Megan Hamilton blew the game open in the following at-bat with a two-RBI double to right-center.

"It's great to start our conference schedule with a sweep," Montgomery said, "but to do it in this fashion was all the better. If this situation (giving up the lead in the seventh) would have happened earlier in the season, I don't think we come back to win.

"This team is learning how win ballgames, and we took a big step toward that this afternoon."

Henderson (6-12) earned the win in both games Sunday after allowing four earned runs in 10 innings, including just one earned run in three innings of relief in game two.

Megan Wilkinson might have been Bears' game-two MVP, though, with 2 1/3 innings of scoreless and hitless relief after starter Jamie Juelfs struggled out of the gates. She struck out two and walked one as Northern Colorado made its comeback.

"She pitched great," Montgomery said of his freshman. "She got roughed up a little bit on Thursday night (against Adams State), but she bounced back this weekend."

Northern Colorado will now step out of PCSC play Wednesday afternoon with a game against instate-rival Colorado State before traveling this weekend to take on Weber State (8-24, 1-3 PCSC).