University of Great Falls Softball Defeats Eastern Oregon, Highl - News, Sports and Weather

University of Great Falls Softball Defeats Eastern Oregon, Highlights and Recap from Saturday 4/9

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Senior Day Split against EOU Keeps Lady Argos in CCC East Lead

GREAT FALLS, Mont. –A split with Eastern Oregon University keeps the University of Great Falls in first place in the Cascade Collegiate Conference East Division standings. For the second straight day, the Lady Argo offense exploded in Game 1, but fell dormant in Game 2, finishing with an 8-2 win and a 9-2 loss on Senior Day.

Senior pitcher Keeley Van Blaricom (6) found herself in a bit of trouble when a Lady Argo fielding error let the Mountaineers score an early run. Two batters later, a single to left center loaded the bases with two outs but the senior captain held steady in the circle and forced a popup to the catcher to keep the damage to a minimum. 

As they did the previous day against The College of Idaho, the UGF bats responded, this time immediately in the bottom of the 1st. The team’s first four batters, all of them graduating seniors, all reached base safely to start the game but leadoff hitter Chloe Cross (3) was forced out at home as EOU briefly avoided their first allowed run of the game.

Eastern Oregon only maintained that clean sheet until the next batter, junior Hali Gruntowicz (19), smacked a single into right field that scored Alex Lowry (14) and Mindy Larson (4). Senior Abby Ricco (31) finished off the run with a single to that drove in Van Blaricom.

All three runs were scored by seniors, and only one batter in those first five wasn’t a player being recognized on Senior Day. While more runs would be scored, UGF held the lead from then on and the senior led first inning couldn’t have been more befitting of the impact that class of nine players has had the UGF program.

“This was my first recruiting class to go through four years, so they are just very near and dear to my heart,” UGF head coach Joey Egan said of the senior class. “There’s a very strong group in this class of starters, but even the non-starters have created such a great atmosphere in our dugout. They have literally created greatness and put a root down for our entire program.”

That greatness continued in the second inning as EOU went three up, three down against Van Blaricom and then UGF added three more runs. Once again the action started off with Cross, who doubled to right field, and she was soon brought around on an EOU error. That error and a Van Blaricom single left runners at first and second. Both were brought home by Gruntowicz, the team’s leader in batting average (.347), who drove in her third and fourth RBIs of the game with a double to right center.

A 6-2 lead was more than enough for UGF to win the game, as Van Blaricom managed to escape from more trouble in both the 5th and the 7th innings. In those two innings, EOU left four runners stranded on base, while only scoring one run. For good measure, Larson belted a towering home run, her first of the season, in the bottom of the sixth to drive in herself and Cross.

“Just the way Keeley composes herself, everybody has complete faith that she’s not worried about the situation, and that she’ll just come out and get the next batter,” Egan said. “They’re not in trouble when they look like they’re in trouble.”

The 8-2 win ensured that the Lady Argos would come out of the weekend in first place in the CCC East, but a 9-2 loss in Game 2 kept their lead over EOU to a slim margin.

In that second game, the UGF bats went quite, just as they did in Game 2 the previous day, and pitchers Shelby Houska (22) and Shelby Abeyta (28) struggled to keep the Mountaineers off the scoreboard. The only scoring inning for the Lady Argos, was the bottom of the 4th, in which Lowry and Van Blaricom took advantage of a few poor throws on a sacrifice fly to both score the team’s only runs.

“Keeley pitches a faster paced game, and Abeyta pitches a slower paced game. I think that’s a piece of the puzzle but I don’t know why can’t seem to come out with the same kind of fire in the second game as we do in the first game,” Egan said. “Our bats just kind of lose steam.”

Van Blaricom’s Game 1 win is her ninth of the season, and Gruntowicz finished the day 2-4 from the plate with four RBI’s. Both Van Blaricom and Lowry tied for the team lead over the two games with three scored runs.

UGF holds a slim lead over EOU for the division led with a 17-11 (11-7) conference record. They will play two consecutive doubleheaders against conference and divisional foe, Carroll College that will likely determine for good the Lady Argo’s place in the CCC playoff race. The top two teams from the East division, and top three from the West will make the conference tournament with the next best team by way of conference record from either division earning the sixth postseason spot.

The first UGF vs. Carroll doubleheader will take place on Saturday, April 16 in Great Falls, Mont. starting at 2 p.m. For the second doubleheader, the two teams will travel down to Helena, Mont. on April 17.

University of Great Falls Sports Information 

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