April 15, 2012

Bears battle Vikings, Mother Nature in Sunday split

Mark Montgomery audio | Megan Wilkinson audio | Erin Geddis audio

By ZACH BOND
UNCBears.com

GREELEY -- After the dust settled Sunday on one of the wildest days for Northern Colorado Softball this season, the Bears walked away with a series split against PCSC Mountain Division-leader Portland State.

The Bears (19-25, 4-8 PCSC) won the final game of the series 10-4 at Butler-Hancock Softball Fields after dropping the first game Sunday in a standard five-hour, extra-inning affair that saw a lengthy weather delay in the top of the eighth inning.

With the split Sunday, Northern Colorado matched its performance against the Vikings (18-17, 8-4 PCSC) on Saturday and split the season series.

"I'm pleased with the overall outcome," Northern Colorado coach Mark Montgomery said. "Portland State was picked to finish first [in the PCSC Mountain Division] -- they are in first place. By all practical reasons, we were supposed to lose today and yesterday, yet I thought we had a chance to win all four, and I was disappointed we didn't win at least three out of four.

"With all of that said, I thought the girls did a good job of staying strong, doing the right things, and really focusing on not making excuses and being the best they could. I am proud of them."

In game two Sunday's doubleheader, the Bears did a great job of working counts and being patient -- as they took advantage of 11 Portland State walks in route to a convincing win.

Lindsey Smith was one of a number of Bears who was productive, going 1-for-3 with a home run, knocking in two RBIs and two runs scored. She also walked twice.

Freshman Nicole Hudson also had a special offensive day after going 1-for-2 with three walks. Somehow, Hudson managed to always find herself in the middle of the action, crossing the plate four times in the game.

Sophomore Megan Wilkinson put in a good effort in the circle for the Bears, as she threw the complete game while giving up just one earned run on eight hits and two walks.

She was especially good after the third inning, where she gave up no runs after allowing four (one earned) in the first three frames. After giving up the four runs early, she limited the Vikings to just three hits for the rest of the game.

After getting down 3-1 heading into the third inning, the Bears jumped out in front after a three run inning keyed by a Smith two-run homer. Also in the inning, Hudson scored on a strange play in which she doubled, then after the ball scooted by the left fielder, advanced to third before being awarded home after the throw skipped into the Bears' dugout.

Portland State evened score again in its half of the third inning, but from there it was all Northern Colorado.

In the fifth, the Bears took the lead again with two more runs -- taking advantage of some lacking Portland State control. After two walks at a hit batter to start the inning, Viking starter Anna Bertrand was pulled for Raya Johnson.

Entering the game with the bases loaded, Johnson immediately walked in the go-ahead run before getting out and walking another run in.

The next inning, Portland State added fielding problems to its control issues as the Vikings made two errors and walked three as the Bears scored four more to take a 10-4 lead. In the fifth and sixth inning, Northern Colorado scored six runs on just one hit.

In the first game Sunday, the Bears rallied to take a lead in the seventh inning, but couldn't hold it in an 8-4 loss.

With the game tied heading into the eighth inning, a freak hailstorm interrupted play for an hour and 45 minutes before the two teams were able to resume play.

The Vikings won it in the ninth with a walk-off grand slam by Alicia Fine.

There were plenty of positives to take away from the disappointing finish for the Bears though, as they scored three runs in the seventh inning to have a chance to win the game.

With the bases loaded and two outs, freshman Mikayla Duffy stepped up and crushed a bases-clearing double before being thrown out trying to stretch it to a triple.

Kelci Cheney took the loss for the Bears, but pitched well -- going the whole way while giving up eight runs on 11 hits and four walks.

Next up, the Bears will have almost a full week off to prepare for their final PCSC home series against Idaho State beginning on Saturday, April 21. The Bears and Bengals will begin their battle at noon.