February 7, 2014

Bears fall in season opening doubleheader vs. Grizzlies, No. 1 Volunteers

Collin Boyles

STATESBORO, Ga. -- Playing in the Georgia Southern Tournament to open its season, the Northern Colorado softball team fell to Oakland, 5-0, before losing a battle with No. 1 Tennessee, 8-0 (F/5). The Bears (0-2, 0-0 Big Sky) will continue its weekend play in Georgia over the next two days.

"It was great to finally be out there and play today," Head Coach Shana Easley said. "The sun was shining, the grass was green, and we came out and had some good points throughout both games."

On the day the Bears totaled seven hits, six against the Grizzlies and one against the Volunteers, all being hit by different players. UNC was able to get four runners in scoring position, but all were unable to cross home plate for a run.

Oakland put the first run on the board in the early game, scoring in the top of the first following a lead-off double and a single to send the run home. Junior Mikayla Duffy (Grand Junction, Colo.) opened as the starting pitcher for the Bears and followed the first with three scoreless innings.

UNC found its first chance to score in the bottom of the second after Duffy drew a walk to get on base. Duffy advanced to second following another Bears hit, but was ultimately out at third following a fielder's choice. Senior Breeana Holliday (Moorpark, Calif.) advanced to second on the out at third. After a pop-up out for the second out of the inning, junior Molly Ryan (El Dorado Hills, Calif.) was caught stealing to leave two runners on base without capitalizing on two runners in scoring position.

The Grizzlies put three more runs on the board in the sixth inning, putting pressure on the Bears to answer with a score. The Bears were able to get two runners into scoring position again, but ultimately came up empty. Ryan gave the Bears some hope in the seventh inning with a hit, but a strikeout and fly out ended the game, 5-0, in favor of the Grizzlies.

Duffy ended the day pitching 5.1 innings while allowing eight hits and four earned runs. She was also able to tally one strikeout on the day.

"Overall our big takeaway is we need to be more aggressive on both sides of the ball," Easley said. "After we put our mindset there, we will be on our way to where we want to be."

Northern Colorado followed right away with another game, this time against No. 1 Tennessee. The Volunteers were even more stingy while allowing hits, as the Bears were only able to total one. Junior Nicole Hudson (Westminster, Colo.) was able to turn a single into left field and later was out at second on a fielder's choice.

Senior Megan Wilkinson (Windsor, Colo.) started the game for the Bears and allowed six earned runs in 2.1 innings pitched. Forty-three of her 69 pitches were called strikes, including two strikeouts. Tennessee totaled four of its runs in the third inning, when freshman Jayme Reddacliff (Queensland, Australia) made her first appearance as a Bear. Tennessee closed out the win with two runs in the bottom of the fifth, before the game ended, 8-0.

"We made adjustments offensively in the second game, had better overall at-bats during that game, and our pitching was better, too," Easley said.

The Bears will be up early Saturday to continue play, facing Oakland and Tennessee again at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., respectively.