After a rough weekend in the DeMarini Desert Classic in Las Vegas, the Ags returned home with a reinvigorated sense of urgency, kicking off the 2016 Aggie Invitational Tournament with a 6-4 win over the visiting Iowa State Cyclones.
“It’s great to come out and be able to constantly fight,” said head coach Erin Thorpe. “[Iowa State] would go up and then we would score more runs, and we needed to see ourselves do that, so it was a really good momentum builder for the weekend.”
Left handed senior pitcher Leah Munden started the game with two quick outs before surrendering three straight singles to load the bases. From that point forward, Munden was dialed in, recording eight straight outs before giving up a dribbling swinging-bunt single in the fourth inning.
Offensively, the Aggies attacked early and often, as senior outfielder Alicia Paine drew a bases loaded walk, followed by a fielder’s choice, giving the Ags a 2-0 lead in the home half of the first inning.
The Ags were able to capitalize on Cyclone pitcher Emma Hylen’s inability to maintain control of the strike zone, accumulating eight base runners in Hylen’s brief 1 ⅓ innings of work. A fourth inning stand-up triple of the bat of junior outfielder Brianna Warner, extended the UC Davis lead to 4-1. Warner finished the game with two hits in two official plate appearances along with two walks and a pair of RBIs.
The Cyclones answered back in the top of the 5th inning, pushing across two runs, making it a one run ball game. With two outs in the bottom aof the fifth, sophomore infielder Ashley Lotoszynski hit a line drive up the middle that ricocheted off Cyclone pitcher Mandi Moore’s leg, falling at her feet. A nonchalant Moore slowly picked up the ball and looped a lazy throw to first, giving Lotoszynski just enough time to beat out the throw. The mental error extended the inning, bringing senior first baseman Kelly Zboralske to the plate, who ripped an RBI single into left field, followed by a Warner RBI to give the Ags a three run lead. The lack of Cyclone urgency, or perhaps lapse of focus, cost ISU the game, as the Cyclones were never able to recover from the three run deficit.
The Cyclones managed to provide one final scare in the top of the sixth inning. With the bases loaded and no outs and the Ags nursing a three run lead, freshman left-handed pitcher Sara Cadona entered the game. Cadona immediately took command of the inning, extinguishing the Cyclone threat by striking out the first batter she faced, followed by a fielder’s choice and a ground out. She allowed only one run in the process.
“I’ve been practicing going into high pressure situations on my own,” Cadona said. “In the bullpen, I visualize what I need to do and then during the game I try to just go back to my roots and trust my mechanics and pitches.”
After a fruitless Aggie bottom of the sixth, Cadona again silenced the ISU lineup to finish the game and record her first career save.
For Aggie softball fans, the 2016 schedule provides plenty of opportunities to catch the action locally with 31 home games, compared to the 30 home appearances in the last two seasons combined. The Ags faced Idaho State on Friday, Feb. 26 (W, 2-1), which is followed by South Dakota on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. and a doubleheader on Sunday, Feb. 28 with South Dakota (12:30 p.m.) and New Mexico (3 p.m.).
Written by: George McConnell – firstname.lastname@example.org