STORY BY MONTANA SPORTS INFORMATION
MISSOULA – Mother Nature may have been credited with the decision, but the win was all Montana on Saturday afternoon, as the Grizzlies snapped a five-game losing streak with a rain-shortened 5-3 victory over Weber State at Grizzly Softball Field in Missoula.
Michaela Hood pitched out of some early trouble to pick up her seventh win of the season, and Montana took the lead for good with a three-run fourth, the key hit a two-run home run by Ashlyn Lyons that gave the Grizzlies their first lead of the three-game series.
The rain arrived in the fifth and put an end to the game in the top of the sixth, with a Weber State runner at third, nobody out and Hood no longer able to control her pitches.
Montana (16-22, 4-5 BSC) lost the first two games of the series on Friday, 3-0 and 11-5.
“We talked a little bit last night. The thing I like about this group is that they talk. They’re willing to share things that they’re feeling, so you kind of get a feel for them,” said coach Melanie Meuchel.
“We showed up today, and I thought we were a little more serious than we have been. It felt like they had a mission in front of them. They wanted to step up, and they did today.”
But first they had to get through the first, because the Wildcats (17-17, 5-4 BSC) came into the game confident after Friday’s wins and seeking to hand Montana its first-ever three-loss sweep in a home conference series.
Landi Hawker tripled to left-center with one out, and the Wildcats loaded the bases following an infield error and a walk.
With Weber State one big hit away from taking control for the third time in the series, Hood needed to be at her best, and she was, striking out Rae Gall for the second out and getting Sadie Blacker to foul out to Anne Mari Petrino down the left-field line to end the early threat.
“That was huge. It pumped us up because we did it under pressure,” said Hood, who allowed four hits, one day after taking the loss in a complete-game three-hitter.
“When you’re able to make a stop early in the game, it can kind of settle you in. Okay, we’re good. Now let’s work on the offensive side,” said Meuchel. “It got a little contagious. We got after some balls and drove some balls today.”
Montana put two runners on in the bottom of the first but was unable to score. That opened the door for Weber State to grab an early 2-0 lead in the top of the second.
With runners at second and third and two outs, Hawker hit one to short that was misplayed, allowing the game’s opening run to score. One batter later, Hawker took off for second and drew a throw. That allowed Takesha Saltern to steal home and put the Wildcats up 2-0.
Gabby Martinez drew Montana within one in the second with an RBI single to left, Madison Saacke made it 2-2 with a two-out single up the middle in the third.
Weber State executed a safety squeeze to perfection in the fourth to regain the lead at 3-2, and that set the stage for the game’s decisive half-inning.
McKenzie Phillips, making her first start of the season, led off the bottom of the fourth with an infield single. With Phillips standing on third with two outs, Delene Colburn, with just one hit in her previous 14 at-bats, roped one to right-center to tie it and put an end to the day for WSU starter Tatiana Su’esu’e.
The Wildcats looked to freshman Kate Donaldson in relief to get out of the inning, but senior Ashlyn Lyons had her own agenda. She deposited Donaldson’s first pitch over the fence in right-center to make it 5-3.
It was Montana’s first home run since Colburn and Lyons went yard in the Grizzlies’ 8-2 victory over Utah Valley way back on March 17, their last game before the start of league.
“We came out and played free today,” said Martinez. “We came together and said, Let’s put it all out there on the line and see how it goes.
“It felt so good to play Griz softball. That was us today. We put on a show for our fans. It should only be up from here. We started out rough, but that doesn’t mean we can’t finish strong.”
Hawker had her second triple of the game to lead off the fifth, but she would be thrown out at home later in the inning by Colburn on a ground ball. And once the game made it through the middle of the fifth, it was an official game, no matter what the weather did.
Montana went down in order in the fifth, and McKinley Brinkerhoff led off the sixth with a five-pitch walk as Hood started having a hard time maintaining her grip on the ball.
Two wild pitches later, Brinkerhoff was at third and the umpires had seen enough. The game was over.
“I wanted to win. I wanted to stop losing. When I went out there I just wanted to do what I could for my team,” said Hood. “We didn’t want to be swept again.”
Lyons finished the game 2 for 3, with two runs scored and two RBIs, and Hood struck out four to end her own two-game losing streak.
Montana will be on the road next week for a three-game series at Southern Utah (6-27, 3-6 BSC), then back in Missoula the following week for a five-game home stand, with a midweek doubleheader against Carroll and a three-game weekend series against Portland State.