STORY BY MONTANA SPORTS INFORMATION
MISSOULA – “Del was Del,” says Montana softball coach Melanie Meuchel, using three simple but all-encompassing words to describe why her shortstop earned Big Sky Conference Player of the Week honors on Tuesday for her performance last weekend at the Arizona Hillenbrand Invitational in Tucson.
That would be Delene Colburn, of course, who batted .571 in five games in Arizona, including her first two home runs of the season, to collect her fourth career Big Sky Player of the Week award.
“She’s deserving of it,” added Meuchel. “She looked great at the plate and stepped up into a bigger leadership role last weekend. I’m proud of her.
“She comes every day to work and plays with a passion on the field that is contagious for anyone who watches her or plays with her.”
Colburn went 8 for 14 at the Hillenbrand Invitational, with a 1.071 slugging percentage, meaning she averaged more than a base per at-bat, and had a .647 on-base percentage.
She went 4 for 4 in Montana’s opener, matching her career high for hits in a game, as the Grizzlies defeated Troy 4-3 in eight innings for their first victory of the season.
Colburn drew a pair of walks against Colorado State and went 2 for 4 in Montana’s one-run loss to Louisiana-Monroe, which led to her biggest moment of the weekend.
Facing Arizona’s Taylor McQuillin on Saturday night under the lights of Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium, Colburn sent a 3-2 pitch over the fence in the top of the first for home run No. 1 of the season. It gave the Grizzlies an early lead against the No. 11 Wildcats.
“When she rounded third base, I think she tried to take my right arm with her,” said Meuchel of the unbridled high-five Colburn unleashed on her coach.
It was justified, because this was no ordinary home run. McQuillin was second-team All-Pac-12 last season and one of 34 finalists for USA Softball Player of the Year. Some home runs just mean a little more than others.
“She was pretty excited she was able to do it against such a high-caliber pitcher,” said Meuchel. “She was pretty jacked.
“It was pretty special to watch her face and see her excitement, and then the faces of her teammates as she ran to them at home plate.”
It gave Montana its first lead against a ranked opponent since going up 2-0 in the top of the first against No. 16 Utah last March in St. George, Utah.
That came from the bat of Colburn as well, a two-run home run.
“Everyone has a place on this team, and as Delene goes, we go,” said Meuchel. “Her love for the game comes through when she plays the game, and it sets the tone for our team.
“She is not a person who wants eyes on her or wants the attention, but she definitely deserves the awards that come her way.”
On Sunday morning, Colburn made it consecutive games with a home run, something she did once as a freshman, twice as a sophomore and three times last season.
In the bottom of the fourth against Troy, Colburn evened the score at 1-1 with the 38th home run of her career.
Colburn had two of Montana’s three hits against Arizona and Troy as the Grizzlies dropped a pair of 2-1 decisions.
Colburn and Montana will travel to Riverside, Calif., later this week for tournament No. 3 of 5 of the early season. The Grizzlies will play games against George Washington, New Mexico and UC Riverside.