The Mountain Lion softball team split a four-game series with the Colorado State University-Pueblo (CSU-P) Thunderwolves, testing their strength for the remainder of the season.
As the regular softball season nears its conclusion, UCCS held a two-day doubleheader series April 15-16 against the Thunderwolves at Mountain Lion Field. Before the first pitch, the two teams were separated by one place in conference rankings; CSU-P sat in ninth while UCCS occupied the 10th spot.
Great defense led to two nail-biting finishes and true tests of character. Both teams stepped up to the plate ready to play, which showed in the lead changes and edge-of-your-seat play-by-play. Saturday’s doubleheader set the stage for what was to follow on Sunday.
After removing the snow at Mountain Lion Field, Saturday’s first matchup with the Thunderwolves kicked off. Both teams started out slowly when scoring runs but were strong on the defensive side, battling back and forth until the Thunderwolves broke the seal with a solo home run in the third inning.
Another run would come around the bases for CSU in the top of the 5th inning. From there, with a score of 0-2 in favor of CSU-P, the Mountain Lions found some energy with a double from junior Maddie Unrein, which brought in two runs to get the Mountain Lions on the board.
Sophomore Lexi Wagner then put two more immediately after with the first home run of the day for UCCS, also giving them their first lead. CSU answered back with a home run over the right field fence, tying the game back up.
In the bottom of the 6th inning, UCCS added another run when the Thunderwolves’ pitcher walked a batter with the bases loaded. That left the score in favor of the Mountain Lions 5-4, heading into the top of the 7th. With the number of innings dwindling, the Mountain Lions did not crack under pressure despite the back-and-forth scoring nearing the end of the game.
All UCCS needed to win was three outs without allowing the Thunderwolves to score. That chance looked solid until the Mountain Lions made an error on a bunt, allowing one run-in to tie the game back up.
Then redshirt senior Courtnie Heller stepped up to the plate, slamming her fifth home run of the season over the fence and winning the game for the Mountain Lions.
UCCS would carry that momentum into the second game, easily overcoming the Thunderwolves 11-3. Sunday’s matchups, however, proved to be a more challenging endeavor. Game three ended with a final score of 7-11, and game four was a heartbreaker in extra innings with an end score of 2-3.
As the season winds down before tournament time, the Mountain Lions look to maximize the remaining time. “I see the team and the next two weeks as a full learning opportunity,” Heller said. “We are a very young team that has a lot of learning to do other than the seniors that are graduating this spring.”
The young Mountains Lions contribute significantly to the team and Heller takes pride in leading them toward success. “As a senior, it is my responsibility to teach and demonstrate the important and small details in the game,” she said.
The Mountain Lions will play against the Chadron State Eagles during senior weekend April 22-23. Chadron State is 7th in the RMAC with a conference record of 18-18.
With nothing but wins for the remainder of the season, UCCS stands a chance of snagging the final spot in the tournament. That all starts with four against Chadron State this coming weekend.
Shortstop #21 Solona Martinez, swings to hit against CSU Pueblo. Photo by Kira Thorne.