The Mountain Lions softball squad dropped three of four games in their debut in the Lubbock Christian University Classic, falling to 2-4 overall to open the 2022 season.
UCCS began their tournament in unceremonious fashion in their first game against the Oklahoma Baptist University Bison, where the Mountain Lions put just one runner on base through the first four innings.
After Bison outfielder Reagan Ford stepped up to the plate, Mountain Lion junior infielders Sawyer Brewster and Solana Martinez combined for three consecutive errors, sending Ford all the way around the bases without any successful hits.
With the Bison leading 1-0, they extended their lead in the seventh inning off a third error by Martinez with the bases loaded, taking a 2-0 advantage into the bottom of the inning.
The Mountain Lions hadn’t produced a hit through six innings, and a groundout followed by two straight strikeouts gave the Bison and pitcher Kayleigh Jones a complete game no-hitter. Only Brewster and redshirt senior catcher Courtnie Heller were able to reach base via walk during the entire game.
UCCS then faced off against the University of Nebraska-Kearney Lopers in the second game of their doubleheader, a team that had the third-worst record in their conference the previous season at 17-25.
Attempting to bounce back from their loss earlier in the day, the Mountain Lions put junior pitcher Gabrielle Cronin on the mound on nine days of rest, hoping she’d provide the spark they needed to take a much-needed win.
Cronin threw for six innings, only allowing two runs on a first-inning base hit up the middle and a sacrifice fly in the second to put the Lopers up 2-0.
However, in the fifth inning, redshirt sophomore second baseman Morgan Hernandez-Belew drew a leadoff walk to precede pinch-hit singles by Brewster and freshman catcher Brianna Jennings to load the bases without an out.
Back at the top of the order, sophomore outfielder Mia Perez shot a flyball to left field to drive in a sacrifice fly run to cut the lead in half. Two batters later, redshirt junior first baseman Peyton Reisman hit a three-run homer to right field to give the Mountain Lions their first lead of the game.
Cronin departed in the seventh following a leadoff single, but freshman pitcher Mackenzie Rutkoff closed the game on eight pitches, winning the game for UCCS and bringing them back to .500 on the season.
After a night of rest, the Mountain Lions were back at it against the Eastern New Mexico University Greyhounds, hoping to start a winning streak for the first time this season.
The first five-and-a-half innings were headlined by the pitchers, with junior pitcher Lexi Rayburn taking five down on strikeouts and allowing four total hits. On the offensive side, one Mountain Lion stood out: freshman infielder Paige White.
White was involved in all three scoring plays for UCCS, taking a 1-1 fastball over the left field fence in the second inning, advancing two bases on a wild pitch and forcing in redshirt junior outfielder Bryn Horton in the fourth, and doubling in a run to score Brewster.
The Mountain Lions’ 3-0 lead was decimated in the bottom of the sixth after Rayburn was relieved by Cronin, where she allowed seven earned runs on four hits and three walks. The Bison’s seven unanswered runs off Cronin were the most consecutive runs they have scored this season.
Rutkoff came in to relieve Cronin, walking another run in, and the Mountain Lions could not recover despite a couple last-minute RBI hits from Jennings and Reisman. The Greyhounds took their sixth victory of the season and have won five of their last six games, while UCCS fell to 2-3 in non-conference matchups.
To close out the LCU Classic, the Mountain Lions faced off against the winningest team in the tournament: the West Texas A&M University Lady Buffs, who were looking to go 5-0 against their opponents in Lubbock.
The Lady Buffs had mercy-ruled their last two opponents, and only allowed two runs in four games, so the Mountain Lions had a tough competitor on their hands.
UCCS could not flip the script on the Lady Buffs, and redshirt junior pitcher Braelyne Crenshaw allowed a career-high 14 hits in a complete outing.
The Lady Buffs’ pitching staff combined for ten strikeouts, only giving up two hits to White and fellow freshman infielder Sydney King. The game ended via mercy rule once again, with the Mountain Lions dropping the match 8-0, falling to 2-4 on the season.
UCCS has a long break in between this tournament and the beginning of the RMAC season, where they will kick off their in-conference play against the Chadron State Eagles Feb. 26-27 in their second home series of the year.