The Ram softball team comes back home this Thursday after a two week road trip through Utah, Nevada, and southern California that dropped the Rams to a 5-7 record in the Mountain West, 26-25 overall.
CSU will host the Utah Utes in a doubleheader Thursday afternoon. The first pitch is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
The last time the Rams and the Utes played was a two-game series in Salt Lake City on April 20 and 21. CSU lost the first game 8-4 but found their offensive groove in the second, storming back from an early game deficit on their way to a 20-5 win. The 15 run margin of victory was the largest of the season for the Rams.
“They kind of ran out of pitching that day, they were down to their third or fourth pitcher,” said Head Coach Mary Yori. “We know that they will be better this time.”
The Rams come into the game 5.0 games back from the conference-leading Brigham Young Cougars, and 3.5 games back of second-place Nevada Las-Vegas. Although only the first place team from the conference is guaranteed to make it to the post-season, the Mountain West has traditionally been selected to send two representatives in the form of an at-large bid.
With just six conference games remaining on the schedule, the Rams will likely have to win out in order to be eligible for that bid.
“We are focused on one game at a time at this point,” coach Yori said. “If we don’t beat Utah it doesn’t do us any good against BYU.”
So far this season, the Rams have displayed the kind of offensive power that they will need to make such a run. The team leads the league in doubles with 76, is second in home runs with 64, and is second in slugging percentage at .473. They are averaging 4.65 runs per game and the pitching staff has an earned run average of 3.73.
Individually, senior right fielder Brittany Huerta needs just one more home run to take sole possession of the CSU all-time home run record, a record that she tied last time the team played Utah two weeks ago. She is currently tied for first at 32 home runs with former NFCA First Team All-American Sara Fredstrom (1995-98). Huerta already set the single season home run record in her freshman year when she hit 14.
Yori said that her players are focused for this weekend and ready to get back to winning.
“We feel very confident,” Yori said. “We are hoping to come in ready to play and get back on the winning track.”
Thursday’s double header kicks off a weekend-long home stand for the Rams, as they will play host to league leading BYU on Friday and Saturday. First pitch in those games is set for 3 p.m. on Saturday and noon on Sunday.
Softball beat writer Nick Hubel can be reached at email@example.com.