A long, four-game weekend for the softball team left the Rams no closer to the top of the Mountain West standings by Sunday, with a 2-2 showing in their final road trip of the year. CSU (26-21, 6-10 MWC) lost two games to league-leading San Diego State on Friday, but salvaged the weekend with two wins against Nevada-Las Vegas on Saturday and Sunday.
The road trip plants the Rams in a shaky fourth place in the conference, one game ahead of the New Mexico Lobos.
Despite that, senior third baseman Lauren Cusick continued her bid for MWC player of the year, adding a league leading 18th home run of the season in Saturday’s 14-6 win at UNLV.
Cusick’s shot was her 36th as a Ram, adding to a record she set two weeks ago for the most home runs all-time at CSU. Cusick’s 18 home runs are also the most ever for a Ram in one season.
The senior from Salem, Ore., enjoyed her best game of the weekend Sunday, going 4-for-4 with four runs, one stolen base and one RBI in the 13-11 win.
But before the sweep over UNLV, Cusick struggled against No. 19 SDSU, going a combined 2-for-7.
Even so, Friday’s games against the Aztecs were within reach for the Rams, but late runs from SDSU sank any chance for the road upset. Game 1 set the tone for the evening, when the Aztecs scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh on a two-out error by CSU second baseman Robyn Mask.
Before that point, senior Cayte Billman was rolling in the circle, going 6.2 innings and allowing just one earned run. She struck out two and surrendered two walks.
The offense, stagnant for most of the first game, was jolted alive in the top of the seventh when an RBI double landed for junior Shannon Causgrove. It was one of just four hits for the Rams in the game.
Game 2 was no kinder, as the Rams dropped a 3-2 decision when a late inning wild pitch plated the go-ahead run for the Aztecs.
Again, the pitching was solid for the Rams, with sophomore Rebecca Penland going six full innings and allowing just two earned runs. She gave up nine hits, struck out two and didn’t allow a walk.
The offense produced just three hits in the game, highlighted by a two-RBI double from Penland in the fourth.
Saturday’s game was a complete change of pace for CSU, who used an unrelenting late offensive flurry to bury the UNLV Rebels, 14-6.
The team enjoyed a seven-run fifth inning, part of a 12-run final three frames.
Freshman Caitlan Stem was 3-for-5 in the game, with two doubles and one RBI.
Sunday was much of the same for the team. The Rams scored four runs in the top of the seventh inning to cap a 13-11 sweep over the Rebels.
The Rams will return home for their final four-game series of the year this Thursday.
The team has a scheduled doubleheader against Brigham Young on Thursday, followed by single games against Utah on Friday and Saturday. First pitch on Thursday is set for 1:30 p.m.
Sports writer Nick Hubel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.