(Editor’s note: University of Montana athletics release)
The Montana softball team finished off a three-game sweep of Utah Valley and extended its winning streak to five with an 8-2 victory over the Wolverines on Saturday afternoon at Grizzly Softball Field.
The top three batters in Montana’s order — MaKenna McGill, Delene Colburn and Ashlyn Lyons — went 7 for 11 with six runs scored and four RBIs in support of Tristin Achenbach, who allowed four hits in her second complete-game win in five days.
The Grizzlies (12-17) scored five runs in the bottom of the first to take early control and added three more as they outscored the Wolverines (7-15) in the teams’ three-game series 17-6.
“We’re playing well together and doing it for each other. When you start doing it for somebody else, you want to play a little bit harder,” said Meuchel.
“When we make a great defensive play, the pitcher wants to step up and make a play for them, and it all kind of feeds off it. It’s all for each other.”
It’s the same pattern followed by previous Montana teams: Get tested early on the road, return home for some pre-league success — the Grizzlies are now 45-16 on their home field — and then ride that momentum into the start of their Big Sky Conference schedule.
Montana, picked first in the Big Sky preseason coaches’ poll, will open its conference schedule next weekend with a three-game series at Idaho State.
“These five games this week were huge,” said Meuchel. “It was important for us to get some rhythm and find our identity. We were challenged but we stepped up and built some confidence in what we’re doing.
“Now that we have a little bit of rhythm to what we’re doing, we’re starting to put up some offensive production, make some great plays on defense and settle in on the mound.”
The Wolverines scored an unearned run off Achenbach in the top of the first, the third time in the three-game series they scored first, but that lead held up for a matter of minutes.
McGill led off the bottom of the first with a single down the left-field line and Colburn followed with a home run to left-center, her seventh of the year. She finished the five-game home stand 10 for 18, with eight RBIs and six runs scored.
With two outs and the bases loaded, Gabby Martinez hit one to third that was fumbled to score a run and extend the inning. Kylie Hayton made the error hurt by drawing a bases-loaded walk on a 3-2 count, and McGill followed with another single to left, her second of the inning, to make it 5-1.
That brought Colburn to the plate with the bases still loaded, in position to put the game out of reach before it was one inning old. She put a charge into a 2-1 pitch but flew out to right. She’s forgiven.
Montana scored one in the second on an Anne Mari Petrino sacrifice fly, one in the fourth on a Lyons home run and one more in the fifth on an infield single by Friday’s walk-off hero, Jessica McAlister.
After hitting just a single home run in her first 150 games as a Grizzly, Lyons now has four in her last 13 games.
That was more than enough for Achenbach, who allowed one run and three hits over the final six innings.
Peyton Angulo got to Achenbach for a solo home run in the third, and the Wolverines hit a number of other balls hard, but the outfield defense of Alex Wardlow in left, McGill in center and Hayton in right, was up to the challenge as the Grizzlies finished their five-game home stand with a single error.
Achenbach struck out four to pick up her third win of the season.
Montana and Idaho State will play a doubleheader next Saturday at 2 p.m. and the final game of the series at 1 p.m. on Sunday.