(Editor’s note: story by Montana Sports Information)
SACRAMENTO, CA – The Montana softball team’s season came to a close on Friday afternoon with an 8-2 loss to Sacramento State at the Big Sky Conference Championship in Sacramento, Calif.
The Grizzlies, who end their season at 25-31, had just three hits off Big Sky Pitcher of the Year Savanna Corr, who defeated Montana for the third time this season.
Montana’s lone runs came on a two-run home run by Cami Sellers in the bottom of the sixth, her team-leading ninth of the year, that pulled the Grizzlies within 6-2.
The Hornets later lost to Northern Colorado, 7-6, setting up a championship showdown between the five-seed UNC and top-seed Weber State on Saturday.
Corr defeated Montana twice when the teams met at Shea Stadium for their regular-season series in April. She allowed just two earned runs in 13 2/3 innings while striking out 15 as the Hornets swept.
In her previous outing, on Thursday afternoon, she recorded a five-inning no-hitter as Sacramento State rolled over Idaho State 15-0.
Montana got to Corr for a pair of singles in the second, but the Grizzlies were unable to turn them into runs.
The team’s only other hit came in the sixth, Sellers’ home run, only the 13th all season allowed by Corr in more than 225 innings pitched.
“She is good. We watched her pitch yesterday, and she was good. She threw well again today,” said coach Melanie Meuchel.
“We drove a couple of balls and thought we had a chance with a couple, but for the most part we just did not square up balls off of her.”
Montana gifted Sacramento State a pair of opportunities, the first in the second, when a two-out infield error allowed the Hornets to score the game’s opening run off Griz starter Tristin Achenbach.
With two on and two outs in the third, Sydney Rasmussen hit a foul pop up that was close to being caught for the third out. Montana couldn’t make the play and Rasmussen followed with a two-run triple, making it 3-0.
“You don’t always have to play perfect in championship play, but you have to take care of the ball, whether it’s offensively or defensively. That’s how you win games and kind of push through,” said Meuchel.
Sacramento State scored three more times in the fifth, making it 6-0, then added two more off reliever Maddy Stensby in the seventh for the game’s final runs.
“We fell a little bit short of what we wanted. This team really wanted to go out and win a championship,” said Meuchel.
With 11 seniors lost off last season’s team, it was a year of transition for the Grizzlies, who battled not only illnesses during the early weeks of the season but an extended winter that did not allow for access to their home field until mid-March.
Montana arrived home on Sunday, March 10, after 25 games over five weekend tournaments with a record of 5-20.
“Softball is a spring sport that begins in the winter, so every team is going to go through some type of adversity,” said Meuchel.
“It’s something we faced, and as we faced it, I always felt we were taking more steps forward than we did back.”
The Grizzlies went 6-3 on its opening nine-game home stand to build some momentum, then carried that into April. Montana ended the regular season winning 13 of its last 16, including three series sweeps in league play.
“We lost a lot of really instrumental people last year, so it was going to take some time to build,” said Meuchel. “I felt like we made some ground in March and really started to take a lot of steps forward. It was fun to see, and it gave us a lot of determination to win a championship this week.
“I’m really proud of each individual on the team. They are good people who want to do well in every aspect of being a student-athlete.”
Montana will have a smaller turnover when the team convenes in late August. Four freshmen will arrive, two seniors will have departed: Colleen Driscoll and Maddy Stensby.