The Fort Lewis College women’s softball team is going to the NCAA Tournament.
The Skyhawks scored five runs in the fourth inning and held off a late Colorado Christian rally to beat the Cougars 7-4 in Game 2 of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference tournament championship in Golden.
“It feels great; it feels great,” FLC head coach Kira Zeiter said. “The team is excited, and we’re looking forward to continuing on.”
The trophy sitting on her lap was nice, too, she said.
This will be the first time since 2008 that the Skyhawks will play in the national tournament.
FLC scored once in the first inning when Chelsea Rodriguez grounded out and scored Destinee DeHerrera.
The Skyhawks added five more in the fourth, starting with a Jordan Willis single that scored Kaylynn Harmon.
On the next play, Erika Conley hit a three-RBI triple to right center, then DeHerrera doubled to left center to score Conley. The ball hit just below the top of the fence.
“It was hardly three inches from being a home run,” Zeiter said. “That’s how hard she hit it.”
Conley was 3-for-3 at the plate for the Skyhawks in Game 2. The Skyhawks had seven total hits, but only one against Genevieve Reyna, who gave up a hit and a run in three innings, then Mariah Bledsoe relieved and gave up the rest.
Zeiter said the team rallied behind pitcher Alexis Villegas, who got the win for Fort Lewis by giving up seven hits and three earned runs from the mound.
“The whole weekend the pitching was really stellar,” Zeiter said. “Everything was just clicking and going the right way all weekend long.”
FLC played without twins Natalie and Stephanie Janes, who were attending Fort Lewis’ graduation ceremony Saturday morning in Durango and were unable to make it back to Golden.
Natalie Janes is the FLC student body president.
“We called them right after the game,” Zeiter said. “They’re a huge part of our team, so we wish they were there with us.”
Colorado Christian scored one in the fifth, and the Skyhawks answered with one more in the seventh before the Cougars scored three more to fall short in the final inning.
Villegas struck out Shelbi Long to end the game.
“It was a huge team effort,” Zeiter said. “I could go down the list, but ... I couldn’t say enough of how happy we are with the whole team performance.”
FLC lost its first game of the double-elimination tournament to the Cougars 4-3 earlier Saturday, forcing the decisive Game 2 to fix who would advance to the NCAA Tournament and who would go home.
Zeiter said she told her players to do whatever they had to – practice hitting, throwing or even play some hacky sack – to get ready for the second game.
“Whatever you have to do to reset your mind in order to come out in Game 2 with a bang, and that’s what we did,” Zeiter said.
FLC held the lead in the first game until the sixth inning, scoring all of its runs in the first.
Reyna walked Kamali’i Peneku with the bases loaded to score Cierra Walters before Hayley Bolyard hit a two-RBI single to score Harmon and Rodriguez.
The Skyhawks had six total hits in the game: Rodriguez was 3-for-3, Harmon was 1-for-2, Bolyard was 1-for-3, and pinch hitter Myndee Thompson was 1-for-1.
The Cougars started to mount their comeback, though, with a two-run fourth inning when Jackie Sanzolone hit a two-run homer to center field.
Colorado Christian added two more and the go-ahead run in the sixth when Reyna doubled down the line and scored Sanzolone.
Sally Larson took over as a pinch runner for Reyna and scored from second when Bledsoe singled up the middle.
The Cougars had seven hits in Game 1 to force the Game 2.
FLC’s Kassie Haubert took the loss, pitching all seven innings for the Skyhawks. She struck out one batter while allowing four earned runs.
The Skyhawks will learn their first-round NCAA Tournament fate – opponent, site, time – Monday.