Rams open series with UNC

Mar 252010
Authors: Joel Hafnor

A week removed from a successful West Coast road trip, the CSU softball team will now take aim at in-state rival Northern Colorado during a double-header against the Bears tomorrow afternoon.

The two-game series, which will go down in Greeley Saturday, is the first meeting between the schools this season. The Bears (7-21) will travel to Fort Collins on April 7, to play the third and final match against the Rams (20-10).

“It’s unique playing the same opponent three times in a row,” head coach Mary Yori said. “Whether it’s conference or non-conference, we need to keep putting a good brand of softball out there.”

The Rams will enter tomorrow’s double-header as winners of 19 of their last 25, while the Bears enter on the heels of a seven-game losing skid. Still, Yori refuses to take the Bears lightly.

“Northern Colorado is a good opponent, they always play us tough,” she said. “It’s for bragging rights. It’s always a fun game.”

Because of typically unreliable weather in February and March, very few schools in the region feature Division I softball teams.

CU-Boulder, Air Force, Denver and Wyoming are all without NCAA teams due to weather restrictions, making the rivalry with UNC all the more important.

“UNC always comes ready to fight,” said senior Rebecca Penland. “We’re going to play this game like we’ve played every other game.”

The Rams’ 20 season wins are just six shy of their total victories posted a year ago. One of the many reasons for the Rams’ drastic improvement in 2010 has been the offensive explosion of Penland.

In 2009, Penland hit for a .274 average with one home run and 15 runs batted in. In just more than half of the 2010 season, the senior slugger has already hit .409 with two home runs and 28 RBI’s.

“I’ve been playing every game as if it were my last,” said Penland, who bats fourth in the Rams’ lineup. “As a senior, I won’t have next year to say, ‘I should have done better.’”

Along with the Rams’ steady offensive improvement, Yori said she believes the team has benefited greatly by production received in the pitching circle.

“When you have some stability in the pitching circle, you come to the ballpark at least knowing you’ll be in the game,” Yori said. “I think our pitching staff as a whole has been much stronger (compared to last season).”

The Rams and Bears will face off Saturday at noon, with the second game set for 3 p.m.

Softball Beat Reporter Joel Hafnor can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

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