(Editor’s note: Story by Montana Sports Information)
MISSOULA — The Montana softball team put in its final preparations for the season’s home stretch with a doubleheader sweep of Providence on Monday afternoon at Grizzly Softball Field in Missoula.
Montana scored six runs in the first inning and six more in the third to claim the opener 12-2. After giving up two first-inning runs in Game 2, the Grizzlies scored the final 10 runs to win 10-2.
The games came two days after Montana (18-29) suffered a series sweep at Weber State. After getting outplayed in two games on Friday in Ogden, the Grizzlies dropped a 2-1 heartbreaker on Saturday in eight innings.
“We were on the edge of Game 3 at Weber State and were hungry for more, so today was a good thing,” said coach Melanie Meuchel, whose team had a five-game winning streak snapped by the Wildcats.
“We were hungry for more games and the opportunity to get back to ball. It was nice to get back together as a team and get back some of the rhythm that we had.”
Montana wasted little time jumping on Providence starter KJ Schweikert in Game 1. The Grizzlies scored six runs off the sophomore from Columbia Falls in the first inning on four singles and three walks.
Montana scored six more runs in the third as singles became extra-base hits. Morgan Johnson had her first career triple, Maygen McGrath and Reilly Williams both had doubles as the lead ballooned to 12-0.
That was enough support for Michaela Hood, who struck out five in her second win of the season, the 27th of her career.
In her first appearance this season batting leadoff, Kylie Becker went 2 for 3 with three RBIs. Lexi Knauss also had two hits. McGrath and Jessica McAlister both drove in two.
Cami Sellers, who entered the game with a program-record hitting streak of 18 games, went 0 for 2. She walked, grounded out and reached on an error.
With as easy as the Game 1 victory came, Game 2 was a grind from the start, much of it due to the home team, which committed two infield errors in the top of the first that allowed two unearned runs to score off starter Colleen Driscoll.
Another error in the top of the second, followed by a base hit to right, gave Providence, already leading 2-0, two more base runners. The pressure Montana was under early on was mostly self-inflicted.
“We’ve had a tendency to do that through the course of the season,” said Meuchel. “It’s one area we’re trying to pick up, to be ready from Pitch 1, to be ready to attack from Pitch 1.
“It kind of rolled up on us in the first inning. Once we gathered back to who we are, we gained control back. I don’t like that it happens, but I’m proud we’ve been answering on the back side fairly quickly when things like that happen.”
Kylie Hayton got Montana going with a bases-loaded triple in the bottom of the second that gave the Grizzlies a 3-2 lead.
Montana scored four in the second, two in the third, three in the fifth, then walked off by run rule when Brooklyn Weisgram scored to make it 10-2 in the bottom of the sixth.
Becker, Knauss, Johnson, Weisgram and Hayton all had two-hit games. Weisgram scored three runs, Hayton drove in a career-high three.
The rally made a winner of Driscoll, who improved to 8-9 after striking out a season-high seven. She struck out the side in the third and added to more in the fourth.
Tristin Achenbach, who no-hit Providence last season, pitched the final two innings. She struck out five.
Montana will close the regular season with a home series against Northern Colorado this weekend, then travel to Southern Utah next week.
It they do enough over those six games, the Grizzlies will go right from Cedar City, Utah, to Sacramento, Calif., for the six-team Big Sky Conference tournament.
“This team, day in and day out, will work hard for it. They fight,” said Meuchel. “They answer when you ask them to do something. I like their determination.
“We still have a lot of good things sitting in front of us. I think some good things are yet to come.”
Montana will host Northern Colorado in a doubleheader on Friday starting at 3 p.m. The teams will play a single game at 1 p.m. on Saturday.