Double plays, home runs lead Belsterling, UCCS past Mesa in series finale
The double play and double trouble in the form of Jessica Belsterling kept the Colorado Mesa University softball team from doubling up Saturday on the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.
After the Mavericks rode the pitching of Jessica Severinsen to a 2-1 win in Game 1 of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference doubleheader at Bergman Field, Mesa set its sights on a series win and some separation from the Mountain Lions (20-11-1, 14-7) for fourth place in the conference standings.
Instead, Belsterling and company triumphed 4-0 and left town with a split of the four-game series, leaving them .008 behind the fourth-place Mavs (15-10-1, 13-6-1) in the standings.
While Belsterling limited Mesa to two hits in pitching the shutout, she had the double play to thank: four of them.
In the second inning, with runners on first and second and one out, No. 5 hitter Megan Smith hit into a 6-4-3 double play.
In the fourth, with runners on first and second and one out, cleanup hitter Severinsen lined a ball toward third base, and the Lions’ third baseman snared it, stepped on third for the force and threw to first for the twin killing.
In the sixth, after Lisa Pille led off by reaching first on an error, Lindsay Drayer lined a ball at the second baseman, who caught it and doubled Pille off first base.
And before all of that happened, the strike that fanned Makayla Kovac led to a throw to second base to get would-be base stealer Nicole Robinson, ending the first inning.
“That was amazing,” Belsterling said of the double plays, adding she was told the total was a school record. “I’m really proud of (the defense). I don’t try to strike everyone out. I just try to get ground balls and fly balls because I know they’ll get it.”
Colorado Mesa coach Candace Abrams said the double plays hurt, especially when they were well-hit balls by two hitters in the heart of Mesa’s order, Severinsen and Smith.
But in the case of the plays by UCCS third baseman Allie Corids and second baseman Brittany Hoppe, “There’s not much you can do,” Abrams said.
There also didn’t appear to be much the Mavericks could do to cool Belsterling’s blistering bat.
She finished the series with four home runs, two solo shots in the finale, including one over the scoreboard in left-center to lead off the fourth inning and put UCCS ahead 2-0.
“The ball was the size of a watermelon for her today and yesterday,” Abrams said. “You’ve got to tip your hat to her. She came out seeing the ball this weekend.”
Belsterling said it was a good pitch on the scoreboard blast, but her mechanics were good, she met up with the ball, and she knew it was gone.
“Yeah,” she said, “that felt good.”
Losing the series finale as well as Friday’s opener left Abrams feeling the Mavericks let two games get away, but she was happy with the way Mesa battled to win Game 1 Saturday.
Severinsen scattered eight hits and a walk and kept her composure in the seventh when the Mountain Lions led off with a single and sacrificed the runner to second. Severinsen got No. 3 hitter Lara Mathewson to fly out to left field, and that brought Belsterling to the plate. Belsterling hit a grounder to the right side, where three Mavericks converged, but after the first baseman fielded it, there was no one covering the bag to throw out the runner.
Unfazed, Severinsen got the next batter to fly out to center.
“You just have to shut the door as the pitcher,” Severinsen said of the situation, adding she remained relaxed and focused on the final batter.
Abrams said her team did a good job of keeping its composure.
“Staying in the moment and staying with the task at hand, that’s what we needed to do,” she said. “They stayed focused, and that’s what counts at that time of the game.”