The Idaho State softball team opened conference play this weekend by taking two of three games from Portland State in a series where no game lasted a full seven innings.
The series opened Saturday afternoon with a 14-0 ISU (9-14, 2-1 BSC) rout, which ended per the NCAA mercy rule after five innings, but was immediately followed with a Portland State (3-20, 1-2 BSC) 10-2 mercy rule victory. The series concluded Sunday afternoon with a 12-4 ISU victory in five innings.
“I think it’s important to look to win every series and not put the pressure on sweeping every series,” said senior third baseman Sarah Hayes said. “If we win every series, we’re going to have a shot at winning the conference and hosting.
Ashlyn Ames tossed five shutout innings in game one of the series and went two for three at the plate, hitting two home runs, both of which came in the second inning. Ames’ two-second inning bombs were part of an 11-run second inning, which saw five Bengals, go yards. ISU hit six home runs in the game one, tying a school record for most home runs hit in a single game.
“In the first game, we were not leaving people on base,” said head coach Candi Letts. “In the second game, we were hitting the ball hard, they just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Those hits go through, I think it’s a different game.”
The Bengals followed the historic offensive output by mustering two runs in game two, managing five hits and were shut out for the first four innings of the game by Portland State’s Emma Detamore.
Emma Bordenkecher drove in ISU’s only two runs by way of the long ball to pull the Bengals to within two, but a huge Viking sixth inning put the contest out of reach as Portland State sent 10 batters to the plate, scoring six runs off of six hits in the sixth inning.
“Bipolar,” Ames said on the difference between the two Saturday games. “That’s the best way I can put it. We came out two different teams. I think we got content with ourselves and that is a huge learning block.”
The Vikings sent Detamore, who threw all six innings of game two, back in the circle Sunday afternoon for game three, but this time with different results.
“Yesterday, we hit her hard, we just hit it right to the players,” said second baseman Alex Portesi. “Coach told us to move up in the box, back in the box, switching your position is going to change where the ball goes. We were able to make that adjustment, we still hit her hard and the balls were falling in.”
The Bengals opened game three in an early 4-0 hole, three of which were unearned due to ISU errors.
“It was a slap in the face to start the game,” Letts said. “That team came out hot. We got caught back on our heels but we told them, there are seven innings to this game. You cannot think that one inning is going to beat you and not one swing of your bat is going to win us the ballgame.”
Jolted by a Kelsey Breer second inning grand slam, ISU scored 12 unanswered runs over the final four innings of play, as Portesi’s walk-off single scored the final two runs needed for the eight-run mercy rule.
“Yesterday, she beat me inside twice, so I was expecting that,” Breer said. “I made the adjustment that I should have made yesterday. I also knew that let them get the momentum first play of the game with that error. It was my time to make a difference.”
ISU chased Detamore from the ballgame two batters later as Hayes and Haley Harrison followed the game tying a grand slam with back-to-back singles.
“The way we bounced back today was crucial,” Breer said. “It give us a lot of confidence.”
The hit parade came without the help of three and four hitters Ames and Kacie Burnett, who were both held hitless in the series finale.
“That’s why it is a team sport,” Letts said. “Somebody else new has to step up. Our young kids in this tripleheader did a nice job.”
The Bengals will travel to Sacramento State next weekend where they will take on a Hornet team that split a series with Weber State who was picked to finish first in the conference’s preseason polls this weekend.
“Anytime you can win a series, it’s important,” Letts said. “Right now, in our conference, it’s parity across the board. It’s going to be tough for the top six to get there … We probably won’t know who is hosting the tournament until that last weekend.”