FLC one win away from the NCAAs

Two more big plays late have Fort Lewis College softball one win away from the NCAA Tournament.

Natalie Janes’ two-run homer in the fifth inning and Kassie Haubert’s right arm won Game 1, and Erica Conley scored the game-winning run in Game 2.

No. 3 FLC beat No. 7 Regis 6-4, then Conley crossed the plate on a wild pitch in the eighth inning to give the Skyhawks a 4-3 win over Colorado Mesa. Fort Lewis, which will play for the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Tournament championship Saturday, is on the brink of its first NCAA berth since 2008.

“This is the position you want to be in at this point,” FLC head coach Kira Zeiter said.

All three games for the Skyhawks have been tight affairs, none more so than the win that put them on the verge of being the RMAC’s automatic qualifier to the NCAAs.

In the bottom of the eighth, Conley and Destinee DeHerrera singled before Cierra Walters reached on a fielder’s choice that cut down DeHerrera at second. Chelsea Rodriguez, who hit her 15th homer earlier in the game, was walked intentionally to load the bases.

But Colorado Mesa’s Courtney Maihi uncorked a wild pitch, sending Conley scampering home with the winning run.

“We kept getting runners on, and so I was still feeling very confident,” Zeiter said. “We’re going to get them across; I was just waiting for it to happen.”

Alexis Villegas (7-8) picked up the victory, throwing all eight innings while allowing three runs on eight hits. Maihi (13-11) took the loss, throwing 5 1/3 innings in relief.

“She was solid all day long, even going extra innings, which was impressive,” Zeiter said of Villegas.

Rodriguez was 2-for-3, driving in two runs with the homer to lead FLC (29-23). Maihi was 2-for-3 with two driven in and a long home run.

“As hard as she hits it, it’s like an ‘Ooh, aah’ moment when it leaves the park,” Zeiter said of Rodriguez’s homer.

In the first game, Janes broke a 4-4 tie in the bottom of the fifth with a two-run homer, and Haubert (11-6) threw seven innings and allowed four runs, just one of which was earned, to help FLC advance past Regis.

DeHerrera was 3-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI, while Janes was 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs and two runs scored.

“I couldn’t ask for more from them than what we’re getting right now,” the FLC head coach said of her team’s effort.

FLC will meet the winner of the final consolation game between Colorado Christian and Colorado Mesa at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. The Skyhawks need only win one of two possible championship games to capture the title in the double-elimination tournament.

However, the availability of two of FLC’s best hitters remains in question. Janes and twin sister Stephanie will be at Fort Lewis’ graduation ceremony Saturday.

Natalie Janes has a speech to give as student body president.

FLC assistant athletic director Chris Aaland said the twins, which were driving back to Durango on Friday night, were then expected to fly back to Golden from Durango to Denver on Saturday morning, which will put them in Denver around 12:20 p.m., 70 minutes before the scheduled first pitch.

“I’m not sure exactly what the timing is right now,” Zeiter said.

Fellow senior Jordan Willis remained in Golden and will play for an RMAC Tournament title Saturday.