The first half of the conference season didn’t exactly go as head softball coach Mary Yori might have planned it, but it wasn’t a total loss either.
The Rams came into the conference season riding an impressive 21-18 non-conference record, but haven’t been able to put much together, losing five of their last eight games against Mountain West opponents.
This weekend the Rams will travel to Sin City to take on UNLV in a doubleheader, followed by a trip to California for two games against San Diego State on Saturday and Sunday. The road trip marks the start of the second half of the conference season for the Rams, as well as a chance for redemption.
“With the young team that we have sometimes getting through the first half is a bit of a learning experience,” Yori said. “I think it is sort of refreshing that we know these teams better the second time around.”
The first two games of the weekend will be against UNLV, a team that swept the Rams when they came to Fort Collins in mid-April. CSU lost the first game in that series 11-5 after they gave up seven runs in the top of the seventh. The second game went into extra innings, but the Rams could not get any offense going in the eighth or ninth and lost 5-3.
“We kind of look at that situation as being near misses for us,” Yori said of the tough losses. “Those were games that we feel like we could have won.”
The second set of games on Saturday and Sunday come against a San Diego State team that was picked to win the conference, but struggled their way to a 3-7 first half record. The Rams swept the Aztecs two weeks ago when they made the trip to Ram Field, taking the first game in extra innings 13-12 and the second by a more comfortable 6-3 margin.
UNLV is currently sitting in second place in the MWC, and is just half a game behind the first place Brigham Young Cougars. Only the winner of the league is guaranteed to make it into the post-season regional tournament on May 18, but it is likely that the league’s second place team will receive an at-large bid into the tournament as well.
For the Rams to make it into that coveted second place position, it will likely take at least eight more wins in their next 12 games, according to Yori.
CSU certainly has the personnel to make the run, but will need to put everything together to make it all work. Senior right fielder Brittany Huerta recently tied the school’s all-time career home run mark with 32 total homers, including 11 this season.
Freshman Allison Majam is putting together an impressive debut season, leading the team in batting average at .385, on base percentage at .437, and slugging percentage at .662. She is also third on the team in RBIs with 29, and tied for second in home runs with eight.
Junior Kim Klabough leads the pitchers with a 2.69 ERA. In 24 appearances this year, Klabough has compiled a 9-8 record, including four complete-game shutouts. She has retired 76 batters with strikeouts and issued just 11 walks in 114.2 innings.
Coach Yori said the team is more prepared to make a run this time around, and it all comes down to their desire.
“It’s time for our players to step up and get it done,” Yori said.
The first pitch in Friday’s doubleheader in Las Vegas will be thrown at 6 p.m. Saturday’s game in San Diego will start at 7 p.m. and Sunday is set for 2 p.m.
Softball beat writer Nick Hubel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Team Conference Overall
BYU 8-2 30-16
UNLV 7-2 32-21
UNM 4-3 15-17
CSU 3-5 24-23
SDSU 3-7 27-19
Utah 2-8 22-20-1