Montana Softball Wins Doubleheader Against Portland State, Highl - News, Sports and Weather

Montana Softball Wins Doubleheader Against Portland State, Highlights and Recap from Saturday 4/16

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Maddy Stensby stole the show at Grizzly Softball Field Saturday afternoon, throwing the first no-hitter in program history and starting game two as the Grizzlies (17-23/6-5 BSC) swept Portland State (11-24/5-6 BSC) to move into fourth place in the Big Sky Conference.

Montana 8, Portland State 0 (5 innings)

The Stensby Show. That is the best way to describe an opener that saw the freshman Grizzly pitcher retire 15 of the 16 batters she faced in the programs first no-hitter, narrowly missing on the perfect game.

She had a 1-2-3 first inning, but allowed a leadoff in the walk, the only blemish on an otherwise perfect stat line. Stensby responded to the walk with two strikeouts in the inning, and forced a pop up for the third out.

Over the final three innings, Stensby didn’t record a single strikeout but kept the Portland State batters guessing at the plate, leading to weak contact and easy plays in the field for the Montana defense.

“I was just feeling good today,” Stensby said. “I didn’t have a lot of strikeouts, it was a team effort. I didn’t even notice until the last inning that it was a no-hitter, but it felt like there was something special going on. Everyone was all in it, so I really feel like it was a team no-hitter more than anything.”

Her teammates helped out on the defensive side of the ball, but just one run separated the teams as they entered the bottom half of the fifth. Delene Colburn hit a solo shot to center with two outs in the third for the Grizzlies only run.

Coach Jamie Pinkerton has described his team as frenzy hitting all season, however, and the fifth inning of the opener showed why.

Leadoff hitter MaKenna McGill singled on a bunt just in front of the catcher and proceeded to steal second base. Sydney Stites drew a walk and Lexie Brenneis followed with an RBI single.

Stites and McKenzie Phillips, who pinch ran for Brenneis, advanced on a wild pitch. Delene Colburn hit a hard grounder down the third base line, but it was fielded well and Stites was caught in no man’s land for the first out.

It would be a while before they recorded the second out. Bethany Olea walked to load the bases, and Madison Saacke, who has been clutch this year for the Griz, hit a two-hopper through the left side to score another run.

Montana also had a little luck on their side. Ashlyn Lyons hit one right back to the pitcher Kristen Crawford, who committed a throwing error that scored two Grizzly runs.

Tori Lettus drew a walk to re-load the bases, and Mercedes Bourgeau watched four balls go by to get an RBI walk.

McGill, batting for the second time in the inning, popped out foul to the third baseman for the second out of the inning, but the bases remained loaded for Stites.

The freshman from Bozeman had struggled, striking out twice already in the game, but she came through in the clutch, hitting a walk-off single to left-center that would have scored two, but the game was called after the first run came home.

The two teams entered the fifth separated by just one run, but Montana poured it on and ended the game in a run rule.

“We are just a frenzy hitting team,” Pinkerton said. “When they get on a roll, one hits after another and they keep the line moving. We sent a full allotment of batters in the inning and when you do that and get great pitching like we did, you are going to win a lot of ball games.”

Stensby, who improved to 3-8 in her freshman season and dipped her ERA just below 4.00, showed exactly why Pinkerton is excited for the future of his pitching staff.

“That is the kind of stuff that she has,” Pinkerton said. “When she can realize that and get out of her own way, she can get performances like today.”

Montana 5, Portland State 3

In the second game, Coach Pinkerton started his ace again, hoping she could continue her momentum after the no-hitter. Stensby impressed again, but this time the second batter she faced was able to get a hit.

Stensby had two runners on and no outs in the first, but handled it well, retiring the next three batters relatively stress-free to get out of the inning.

She allowed hits in the second and third innings as well, but the two sides remained scoreless through three.

In the top of four, Stensby allowed back-to-back doubles as Portland State took the lead. She left the game after pitching three and a third innings, finishing the day at eight and a third innings with five hits and two runs allowed.

Sara Stephenson entered for Stensby and allowed a hit that scored the runner on second when the starter left. Portland State added on to their lead in the top of the fifth inning, scoring off Stephenson and forcing Pinkerton to bring Colleen Driscoll in off the bench.

Driscoll dominated, allowing zero hits over two and two thirds innings of relief. Driscoll didn’t allow a run in the sixth, giving the Grizzly offense a chance trailing 3-0 with just six outs left.

Once again, Montana rallied late in the game for the win. The Grizzlies put together a five-hit, five-run inning.

Colburn led off the inning with a surprise bunt hit, starting a run off five straight singles for the Grizzlies. Kelsey Lucostic, pinch hitting for Alex Wardlow, drew a walk with the bases loaded to score a run. McGill and Stites both had ground out RBI’s as well, as Montana took a two-run advantage into the final inning, where Driscoll again put up a zero to earn the win.

Driscoll, who had less than 10 innings pitched on the year and doesn’t always travel with the team, picked up the first win of her career. She has battled injury in order to make it to Montana, and Pinkerton couldn’t say enough about the freshman pitcher following the game.

“She comes to practice working every day, she doesn’t know if she is going to get to travel and she still puts in her work and does a heck of a job for us,” Pinkerton said.

Pinkerton said he rarely starts players in consecutive games, but because of the low pitch count on Stensby after the first game he decided to start her again.

“Hendrix did a great job keeping us off-balance and hitting the zone. She was missing bats and getting us to pop up, but we were able to put together a good inning there and get those five runs.”

For Montana, a majority of their damage came with the bases loaded on Saturday, a spot they struggled with early in the year. In the past couple weeks, however, they have been on fire, bringing their average up to .333 with the bases loaded into the weekend and improving upon that Saturday.

“It’s cyclical, that stuff is going to come around,” Pinkerton said. “With the rotten luck that we had last week, this week we had balls drop that probably shouldn’t have, and that’s why you just have to stay the course.”

The Grizzlies moved into sole possession of fourth place in the Big Sky with the wins, taking a one-game lead on Portland State. The top six teams make the conference tournament, and Montana now owns tiebreakers against two teams below them in the standings.

Saturday was a good answer for a team that had dropped four straight, and five of six, Big Sky contests.

“As devastated as they were after that road trip last week, I knew Monday when we showed up for practice that they were going to be fine,” Pinkerton said. “I think I needed to see that, so they picked me up with the way they practiced and I thought, ‘These girls get it, we might be going somewhere.’”

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