(Editor’s note: University of Montana athletics release)
The Montana softball team opened its three-game series at Southern Utah with a doubleheader sweep on Friday at cold, windy Kathryn Berg Field in Cedar City.
The Grizzlies scored three runs in the top of the seventh to take the opener 4-1 and used a three-RBI game from Delene Colburn to win the second 5-3.
The sweep extended Montana’s winning streak to three and moved the Grizzlies, at 6-5, back above .500 in the Big Sky Conference standings.
“I like the way we grinded today,” said coach Melanie Meuchel, whose team scored seven of its nine runs in the fifth inning or later.
“I was really proud of our offense and the way we put things together and pushed across some runs. Late in both games we came alive and came together.”
Playing at a venue that traditionally produces high-scoring games — on its last trip to Cedar City, in 2016, Montana outscored Southern Utah 30-25 in three games — the Grizzlies’ pitchers stood out.
Michaela Hood and Colleen Driscoll combined for a two-hitter in the opener. Maddy Stensby went the distance in the second game, the 11th complete game of her career.
Hood pitched out of trouble in the first and second innings, stranding five runners, and was relieved by Driscoll in the third after issuing back-to-back walks.
Driscoll worked out of the jam by getting two strikeouts. The only run she allowed was a solo home run in the fifth that tied the game at 1-1.
“Michaela gave us a chance, and Colleen came in and was good. She was really good,” said Meuchel.
Stensby was even better. She allowed seven hits and three runs, but she also matched the program record, held by Hood, by striking out 13.
She allowed a solo home run in the bottom of the first as Southern Utah got out to an early 1-0 lead, but she also recorded three strikeouts in the half inning.
“Stensby pretty much from pitch one looked like she was going to be dominant today,” said Meuchel.
“They are an offensive team that swings it aggressively, so we needed to be smart with our pitching today. We had a little bit of a game plan that helped us gain control and have some success.”
Montana only registered four hits in the opener but made them count.
The Grizzlies went up 1-0 in the second on an RBI groundout by Anne Mari Petrino, then broke a 1-1 tie in the seventh with three runs.
Tori Lettus, pinch-hitting with two on and one out, drove in the winning run on a fielder’s choice. Gabby Martinez followed with an RBI single to right and Colburn made it 4-1 with an infield single.
Driscoll pitched a perfect bottom of the seventh for her fourth win of the season.
Colburn took a 3-for-19 slump into the second game but broke out in a big way. She singled in the first, then led off the third with a home run, her eighth of the season to straightaway center but first since March 17.
With the game still tied 1-1 in the fifth, Madison Saacke gave Montana the lead for good when her two-run triple, the second three-bagger of her career, scored Colburn and Ashlyn Lyons, who had her third two-hit game in the Grizzlies’ last four.
Southern Utah pulled within 3-2 on a sacrifice fly in the fifth, but Montana gave itself some breathing room in the top of the sixth.
Petrino led off with a walk, and Lettus came through again in a pinch-hitting role, singling to put two runners on with nobody out.
MaKenna McGill drew a walk to load the bases, and Colburn followed with a hard-hit grounder up the middle to score two and make it 5-2.
“Even in her first at-bats today, (Colburn) swung it confidently, and everyone felt that,” said Meuchel. “She went through a little bit of a rut and had been pressing, but she did well with it today.”
The teams will wrap up the series with a single game on Saturday at 1 p.m.