Mar 312005
 
Authors: Paul Baker

After two months of playing on the road and playing in tournaments all over the country, the women's softball team is finally blessed with the comforts of home. The Rams will start conference play today when they take on San Diego State and Sunday as they host UNLV.

The Rams started off the week by sweeping Northern Colorado 12-2 and 10-1 in their doubleheader Tuesday in Greeley. In the first game, the offensive explosion by the Rams came in the sixth inning when they scored eight of their 12 runs.

Catcher Kerry Farrell was 4-for-5 on the day, recording three RBIs and a double for both games.

The SDSU Aztecs, now at 22-12 on the season, are recently on a hot streak, winning four of their last five and seven of their last 10 games. The Aztecs are led by senior outfielder Erin Mahoney, who has accumulated a .329 batting average, and freshman Allison Smith, who has 11 home runs and 27 RBIs on the season. The Aztecs are 3-2 in MWC openers and 2-1 in openers on the road. SDSU and CSU have met 51 times – the Aztecs hold the edge 28-23 and took the season series last year, winning three games out of four.

"They have been at the top of our league the past five years; to open with a very competitive team to start is good for us," said head coach Mary Yori. "We have some really good rivalry games over the past few years. Expect a close game."

The Rams won the last meeting between the two teams 2-1 on April 25 in Fort Collins.

"We definitely respect them and they are probably the toughest team that we will face," said senior second baseman Stephanie Roberts. "They're a different team from last year, but we are, too, so were just going to have to go out and play."

UNLV comes to town on Sunday in its only trip to Fort Collins this season. The Rebels enter conference play with a record of 23-12. Last season, the Rams met up with the Rebels four times, winning all four meetings. In the last meeting between the two teams, the Rams won in a close game 4-3.

CSU leads the overall series 24-15. The Rebels are coming off a 4-1 performance in the Stanford Invitational, with wins over No. 20 Northwestern, Hawaii, Saint Mary's and Illinois. Their only loss came against tournament host and No. 5 Stanford. The Rebels are led by freshman Marissa Nichols, who now has nine home runs, 29 RBIs and is batting .475.

"They are a much improved team from last year," Yori said. "They are playing with a lot of confidence and winning some big games. They'll be tough."

The first pitch of the doubleheader against the Aztecs is set for 1 p.m. today at Rams Field. The first game of the doubleheader on Sunday is set for noon.

"We mainly have just prepared mentally and emotionally," Roberts said about the games this weekend. "We just need to stay consistent and play like we need to."

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