Skyhawks softball is alive and well

With the No. 1 already eliminated, RMAC Tournament is ‘wide open’

Apparently the slugging Skyhawks can win low-scoring affairs, too.

The Fort Lewis College softball team, one of the nation’s top offensive teams, rode its pitching and a bit of timely hitting to a 3-2 victory over Metro State in the first round of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Tournament on Thursday at Regis University in Denver.

The Skyhawks, seeded third, had to rally late to best the No. 6 Roadrunners. Down 2-1 in the sixth inning, FLC started to rally with one out. Chelsea Rodriguez and Stephanie Janes singled before Natalie Janes delivered the big blow two batters later.

Natalie Janes ripped a two-out double to left center, scoring Rodriguez and pinch runner Breanna Berens to give the Skyhawks a 3-2 lead.

“You could just see it in her eyes,” FLC head coach Kira Zeiter said of the program’s career leader in runs batted in. “She came up, and on the first pitch just took a beautiful swing at it and just roped the ball in the gap.”

Kassie Haubert (11-6) then shut the door to cap a complete-game effort. She threw seven innings, while allowing five hits, two runs (one earned) and striking out five against two walks.

“I cannot say enough about the job that she did – (Thursday) and (the job) she’s been doing – phenomenal pitching performance,” Zeiter said.

The comeback came at the expense of Metro State starter Aubree Maul (18-8), who had flummoxed the Skyhawks earlier this season in Durango. She struck out seven and allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits.

Erica Conley scored the Skyhawks’ first run when she came home on Susie Oury’s error on a Cierra Walters groundball to tie the game at 1 in the third inning. Metro State answered on Brittney Padilla’s bases-loaded RBI walk in the fourth, setting the stage for FLC’s late rally.

Top-seeded Colorado Mines, which lost 4-0 to No. 8 Colorado Mesa and 6-4 to No. 4 Colorado Christian on Thursday in Golden, is the host school, with some of the games being played at Regis because of a need for two fields.

Fort Lewis will play No. 7 Regis on the Rangers’ campus at 10 a.m. Friday in the teams’ first meeting of the year. Regis dropped No. 2 CSU-Pueblo into the losers’ bracket with a 2-1 victory in the double-elimination RMAC Tournament. FLC was the only higher-seeded team to win its first-round game.

The FLC-Regis winner will play in the semifinals at 4 p.m. Friday on Colorado Mines’ campus, with the loser playing a consolation game at 1 p.m. Friday.

No. 1 Colorado Mines and No. 2 CSU-Pueblo already have been eliminated from the tournament.

“This is definitely a wide-open tournament. ... We don’t have any preconceived notions of what’s going to happen because we (FLC and Regis) haven’t played each other yet,” Zeiter said.

heraldsports@durangoherald.com