(Editor’s note: Story by Montana Sports Information)
GREELEY, CO – The Montana softball team dropped a pair of extra-inning, walk-off decisions to Northern Colorado on Friday afternoon as the teams’ three-game series opened at Gloria Rodriguez Field in Greeley.
The Bears won the opener 1-0 on Rachel Johnson’s one-out, solo home run in the bottom of the eighth, then scored three times in the bottom of the ninth in game 2 to rally for an 8-7 victory.
The Grizzlies (22-26, 8-9 BSC) have lost four of their last five games to drop to sixth place in the Big Sky Conference standings, one up on seventh-place Idaho State with the six-team league tournament opening in Ogden, Utah, in less than two weeks.
Colleen Driscoll took the hard-luck loss in the first game, allowing just two hits through 7 1/3 innings before Johnson’s game-winner.
Valerie Vidal was just as good for Northern Colorado (25-22, 7-6 BSC), giving up four hits, never more than one in an inning. Just three times did the Grizzlies have a runner at second base.
“Colleen was good. She hit spots and gave us a chance to win the game,” said coach Melanie Meuchel. “She did what she needed for us on the mound. We needed to find a way to scratch one.”
Johnson beat Montana to it when she hit her sixth home run of the season over the fence in left.
“It was a good swing, and I thought it was a good pitch,” said Meuchel. “The one pitch they got made us pay.”
The Grizzlies didn’t wait long in game 2 to do what they couldn’t do in game 1, scoring twice in the top of the first.
MaKenna McGill led off the game with a triple and later scored on an error. Delene Colburn, who would have three hits on the day, singled and scored on an Ashlyn Lyons RBI to make it 2-0.
But the lead wouldn’t last, as the Bears scored one in the first off Maddy Stensby, then added three more in the third to go up 4-2.
Montana retook the lead in the fifth, scoring three times with two outs. A Colburn double drove in McGill, Madison Saacke singled home Colburn, and Jessica McAlister singled to drive in Ashlyn Lyons.
Tristin Achenbach relieved Stensby with two outs in the third and ended the inning with a strikeout. She worked a hitless fourth and a scoreless fifth before allowing a sacrifice fly in the sixth that tied the game.
The runner who scored got on base to open the inning on a Montana error in the outfield, one of a number of uncharacteristic misplays by the Big Sky’s top defensive team.
“We weren’t very good defensively today,” said Meuchel. “We struggled at making plays and some of those turned into hits.”
Achenbach got out of the sixth and seventh innings with the winning run at third base, and she pitched a three-up, three-down eighth, setting up Montana’s ninth.
Anne Mari Petrino singled to left-center with one out and scored one batter later on a costly infield error that ended with Gabby Martinez on third. Martinez scored on a McGill ground out to make it 7-5.
The end came quickly in the bottom of the ninth, as the first three batters were credited with doubles off Achenbach. That tied the game. After an infield pop-up, Natalie Joyner made it two straight walk-offs with a single to right.
Montana finished with 10 hits, matching its highest output in a game since March 10, with Colburn going 3 for 5. Eight batters had hits, with McGill and Colburn both scoring twice.
“It was back-and-forth offensively. We had our chances but let them back into it,” said Meuchel. “When we have that many hits, we should win.
“We get another opportunity to come out tomorrow and compete. We need to stay in attack mode.”
The series will conclude on Saturday with a game at 1 p.m.