(Editor’s note: story by Montana Sports Information)
MISSOULA – The Montana softball team picked up its first Big Sky Conference win of the season with a 4-3, eight-inning victory over Idaho State on Sunday afternoon at Grizzly Softball Field in Missoula.
Montana (11-23, 1-2 BSC) fell behind 2-0 in the first inning and trailed 3-1 going into the bottom of the fifth.
The Grizzlies pulled within 3-2 with a run in the fifth and tied it 3-3 in the sixth. Cami Sellers ended it in the eighth with a double into the gap in right-center that scored Brooklyn Weisgram from first.
Sellers finished the game 3 for 4 with two RBIs and batted .500 for the series, going 6 for 12.
The rally made a winner of Maddy Stensby, who threw seven shutout innings in relief of starter Colleen Driscoll, who made it just two batters into the top of the second.
Stensby was at her best in the late innings, working out of jams in both the seventh and eighth innings.
Haley Harrison had a one-out triple for the Bengals (13-17, 4-1 BSC), who could have taken sole possession of first place in the Big Sky with a win, in the seventh, with ISU’s No. 3 and 4 batters due up.
Stensby got Emma Bordenkecher to foul out to Sellers at first for the second out and struck out Shayna Dahlen to end the inning.
Montana faced more danger in the top of the eighth, when Aubrey Creekmore, who went 7 for 9 in the series, led off the inning with double down the right-field line.
After Idaho State sacrificed Creekmore to third, Stensby got a critical one-out groundout to the only spot in the infield that could have kept Creekmore from scoring: to Kylie Becker at third base.
With Creekmore still at third and two outs, Stensby gave Montana another opportunity to win it by forcing a groundout to second.
Lexi Knauss, who had her second two-hit game of the series, started Montana’s rally in the bottom of the eighth with a one-out single back up the middle.
She was put out at second on a Weisgram fielder’s choice, bringing Sellers to the plate with two outs. The transfer from Boston College drove the first pitch she saw from Autumn Pease, Saturday’s Game 1 winner and last week’s Big Sky Pitcher of the Week, into the gap.
Montana’s last three wins have come in walk-off fashion.
It’s a game both teams will look back on and think they should have won in seven. The Grizzlies and Bengals combined to leave 20 runners on base.
Coming off a one-sided 6-1 victory in Game 2 on Saturday, Idaho State carried that momentum into the top of the first on Sunday, scoring twice on four hits to go up 2-0.
Montana got one right back in the bottom of the first. Knauss tripled to right to lead off. Weisgram, who went 0 for 6 in Saturday’s doubleheader, with four strikeouts, followed with an RBI single through the right side.
After Driscoll gave up a double and run-scoring single to lead off the second, she was replaced by Stensby, who would keep the Bengals off the scoreboard the rest of the way.
Montana left two runners on in the first, two in the second, one in the third and one in the fourth before finally getting back on the scoreboard in the fifth and sixth innings.
Designated player Reilly Williams made it 3-2 in the fifth on a bloop single to left-center that scored Weisgram.
Sellers evened it in the sixth with a two-out single to right that scored Kylie Hayton, who led off the inning with a walk. The Grizzlies had three on base when the sixth ended.
Montana, which had 10 hits, its seventh time this season with 10 or more, went down in order in the seventh before coming through the walk-off win in the eighth.
The Grizzlies will face Big Sky preseason favorite Sacramento State (17-16, 2-3 BSC) next weekend on the road.
The Hornets, who had a game cancelled on Friday because of snow in Ogden, Utah, lost twice at Weber State on Saturday, 7-4 and 7-3.
Montana and Sacramento State will play a doubleheader on Friday starting at 1 p.m. (MT) and a single game on Saturday, also at 1 p.m. (MT).