STORY BY MONTANA SPORTS INFORMATION
RIVERSIDE, CA – The Montana softball team opened the Amy Harrison Classic in Riverside, Calif., on Friday the same way the Grizzlies finished the Arizona Hillenbrand Invitational last weekend, with a one-run loss.
George Washington got a run in the second and the game-winner in the sixth off reliever Michaela Hood, and that was enough to defeat Montana 2-1, the Grizzlies’ fourth consecutive one-run loss.
Montana (1-10) has lost five straight games by a total of six runs and on Friday let one slip away.
The Grizzlies, who would strand nine, had at least one runner on base in each of the first six innings, with two on in both the fifth and sixth innings, but were held to two or fewer runs for the eighth time in 11 games.
“We left people on base and just never really shut the door. We had opportunities and didn’t capitalize on them,” said coach Melanie Meuchel. “It’s realizing it, believing it and stepping up and doing it.”
In a sign of what was to come, MaKenna McGill, who reached base three times, led off the game with a walk but went nowhere, as Montana’s No. 2, 3 and 4 hitters all flew out.
The Colonials (5-2) opened the scoring in the second in much the same way Troy generated its runs last Sunday in the Trojans’ 2-1 win over Montana in Tucson.
They got a one-out single off Griz starter Colleen Driscoll, a stolen base and a two-out single to create the first run of the game.
Montana broke through in the third off George Washington senior starter Sarah Costlow, who was making a cross-country return to her hometown of Riverside.
McGill led off with a walk and two outs later stole second. That put her in scoring position for clean-up hitter Maddy Stensby, a pitcher making her first plate appearance in nearly two years.
Stensby arrived at Montana wanting to both pitch and bat, and had a productive fall exhibition season at the plate. So it came as a surprise to no one that she singled to center to tie the score at 1-1.
“She swings it freely, so we thought she might add a little bit of spark to our offense,” said Meuchel, who moved Delene Colburn into the No. 2 spot, behind McGill and ahead of Ashlyn Lyons and Stensby.
“Her approach was rock-solid at the plate today. She looked good. She put good bat to ball in each at-bat. But it’s not just one person who has to get it done. We’re collectively going to have to do it.”
Montana put runners on first and second with two outs in the fifth, but a ground out ended that threat.
Infield singles by Kylie Hayton and Anne Mari Petrino, who matched her career high with a pair of hits, put runners at first and second with one out in the sixth in a 1-1 game.
A fielder’s choice cut down Hayton at third for the second out and an unassisted ground out to first base ended what would be Montana’s final scoring chance.
Hood replaced Driscoll in the fifth inning and opened the sixth with a strikeout, but she walked the next batter on a full-count pitch. It was one of only two walks issued by Driscoll and Hood, but it would be costly.
The next batter doubled, putting runners on second and third with one out. The Colonials scored the game-winning run on a ground out to second.
Driscoll and Hood, who dropped to 0-4 with the loss, allowed just five hits, matching a season low for an opponent.
“We kept them at bay and really limited their opportunities, but a walk here and there can hurt you,” said Meuchel. “They always seem to come back and bite you.
“It certainly wasn’t the reason we lost this game, but it opened the door for them. They stepped up and took advantage of it, and that was something we didn’t do today.”
Montana sent Colburn, Lyons and Stensby to the plate in the seventh, but each of them flew out against Costlow, who improved to 3-0.
Montana will play New Mexico at 10 a.m. (MT) and George Washington again at 12:30 p.m. (MT) on Saturday. The Lobos lost 8-3 to the Colonials on Friday morning.