A team record-tying five-homer game saw the Fort Lewis College softball team eliminate Colorado School of Mines from the conference tournament Friday. Two big homers by Regis in the night cap ended the season for the Skyhawks.
FLC, the sixth-seed in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference tournament, took down fourth-seed Colorado School of Mines 9-8 in an elimination game Friday afternoon in Grand Junction. But it would be fifth-seed Regis that ended the year for FLC with a 3-1 win late Friday night.
It ended a special season for FLC in the return to play after the 2020 campaign was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic in a year in which FLC had gotten off to a strong start under first-year head coach Ashley Reeves.
This year, Reeves’ Skyhawks got to finish the job, and they made their return to the conference tournament for the first time since 2014, even with the field reduced from eight to six teams.
And FLC (20-23) would have a memorable win Friday against Mines to send the seniors off in style and carry the returning team into the offseason on a high note.
Kylie Hefley, an ALL-RMAC honorable mention selection, got FLC going with a two-run home run against Mines in the first inning to put FLC up 2-1. She started a huge third-inning rally with a RBI double that scored Pilar Gutierrez, and then Breanna Leavell hit her first of two homers in the game to give FLC a 5-1 lead. Seconds later, McKenna Hefley, also an All-RMAC honorable mention player, followed in her twin’s footsteps with a solo homer that have the Skyhawks out front 6-1.
But Mines answered back with four runs in the fourth on RBI singles from Aubree Karraker and Stefanie Brunello sandwiched around a two-run double from Sam Wade.
Unfazed, the Skyhawks came right back in the bottom of the fourth with a homer off the bat of eight-hole hitter Taylor Beaman that scored Jaden Blaise Redus. Then, Leavell hit her second home run in the fifth inning to give the Skyhawks a commanding 9-5 lead.
“I had been in a slump lately, but everyone else was hitting. This was just amazing,” Leavell said in the postgame interview.
Leavell also would be the winning pitcher, as she held off the Orediggers’ comeback attempt. Renata Boyd of Mines had an RBI single to left field in the sixth to cut the FLC lead to 9-6, and Kayleigh Krueger would hit a two-run homer in the seventh to get within 9-8, but Leavell was able to knock down a hard comeback line drive in the pitcher’s circle and calmly underhand a throw to first base to retire Wade and secure the victory for the Skyhawks.
“My whole team, I just want to thank them for everything and keeping the positivity up,” Leavell said. “It was just a good vibe to play in.”
Kendra Keahbone, a Second Team All-RMAC selection, was the starting pitcher for FLC. She lasted 3 1/3 innings and allowed five runs on eight hits. She didn’t walk a batter and had zero strikeouts.
Leavell (9-13) earned the win in relief. She allowed three runs – two earned – on three hits and a walk. She struck out one.
Krueger took the loss in the circle for Mines. She allowed five of FLC’s nine hits and was charged with five runs. Sadriena Rodriguez gave up three runs on three hits and three walks in 1 2/3 innings before Sydney Marchando finished the final six outs, allowing one run on three hits.
After a three-hour wait between games, the Skyhawks’ bats went cold against a tough Regis team.
It was scoreless until the bottom of the third inning when shortstop Jessi Case belted a two-run homer for Regis.
FLC would get one run back in the top of the fifth inning on a Kylie Hefley RBI double that scored Gutierrez.
But Regis would add an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth on a leadoff homer from Katherine Raper.
With a runner on second and two outs in the top of the seventh, Regis relief pitcher Megan Loveland would get Kylie Hefley to ground out to second base to earn her fourth save of the season.
Loveland allowed two hits but escaped any trouble in part thanks to FLC running into a runner’s interference call in the sixth inning when a base runner made contact with Case at shortstop before she could field a grounder.
In the fifth inning, FLC threatened with a runner at second and two outs, but Leavell’s hard-hit line drive was snared by Case to deny FLC a chance to tie the game at 2-2.
Abby Covington (2-3) was the winning pitcher for Regis in five innings of work. She allowed four hits, two walks and hit a batter. She struck out one.
Leavell was charged with the loss in five innings of work. She gave up three runs – two earned – on five hits, including the two homers, and a walk. She struck out three.
Keahbone pitched the final inning for FLC and struck out one.
Regis will now advance to face top-seed Colorado Mesa in an elimination game at 1 p.m. Saturday. Mesa, ranked 15th in the country, was stunned 5-0 by No. 3 Colorado Christian on Friday. FLC’s other tournament loss came 6-3 to Colorado Christian on Thursday. It was only the third loss all season for the Mavericks.
Colorado Christian will wait for the winner of Mesa and Regis to set up the championship showdown beginning at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, with an if-necessary game to decide the title set for 6 p.m.