Per UGF Athletics Department:
GREAT FALLS, Mont. – A split doubleheader against Carroll College, wasn’t a bad start to Cascade Collegiate Conference play for Lady Argo softball, but it could have been much better if not for a series of errors in both games. UGF got away with committing 4 errors in Game 1, winning 4-3 off a late homerun, but 3 more errors in Game 2 cost the team its undefeated record in a 3-2 loss.
The UGF bats took a while to wake up in the first game of the doubleheader. Through the first 4 innings, the Lady Argos managed just 3 hits, but thanks to the pitching of senior Shelby Abeyta, the damage wasn’t too bad by the time the 4th inning ended.
Abeyta struck out four batters in that span of time, and the only run the Fighting Saints scored was an unearned effort that benefited from UGF’s first error of the day, an overthrow from second baseman Gabriellle Canibeyaz.
A huge missed opportunity in the bottom of the 4th for UGF felt like failure at a critical moment of the game. The Lady Argos had two runners on with no outs and then loaded the bases with just one out, but a strike out and then a hit into a fielder’s choice left three runners stranded.
To add to the disappointment, UGF committed two more errors in the top of the 5th, which led to another run for the Fighting Saints.
A single from senior catcher Jocelyn Kaufman led off the bottom of the inning, and what was supposed to be a sacrifice bunt, turned into a single for senior Morgan Robinson during the next at bat, putting UGF in the same situation blew during the previous inning.
Junior outfielder Bailey Henderson made sure the opportunity wasn’t completely wasted, knocking an RBI single to right field. Then came junior third baseman Kylie Gonzales, who had committed both of the 5th inning errors. She more than made up for that one run, driving a deep fly just over the centerfield fence for a 3 RBI home run.
Her efforts gave UGF a 4-2 lead, which the Lady Argos came agonizingly close to expanding in the following inning. The team left three more runners on base, and gave Carroll hope for a final inning charge.
Abeyta took the mound in the top of the 7th, looking to pitched the first complete game of the season for UGF, but after allowing two straight singles to left field, Head Coach Joey Egan brought in closer Kristina George.
The fourth error of the game brought around another run, though the error came on a tight play at home plate where Kaufman lost the ball while tagging the charging runner. That run made the Lady Argo fans nervous, but George was in total control getting the next two outs to end the game and earn her 4th save of the year.
It seemed like the momentum from a dramatic win in Game 1 was carrying over for UGF in Game 2. The Lady Argos were hot out of the gate. Leadoff hitter, senior Morgan Robinson, walked to start the inning but quickly found her way home off a triple to right field from Henderson.
Just as she did in the 5th inning of Game 1, Gonzalez was effective following Henderson. She singled to center to bring Henderson home and give UGF an early 2-0 lead. Those two runs would be the last two the team would score for the rest of the day.
The middle innings were the trouble for UGF defensively. A walk and double in the top of the 4th, set up Carroll’s first earned run of the day to pull within 1. That hit could’ve tied the game, but centerfielder, Robinson, combined with first baseman Jackie Thomas, and Kaufman to tag out the tying runner at home plate.
While, at the time that play saved the game, a similar sequence went differently and turned the tide of the game.
Carroll’s leadoff batter in the inning singled to third on a bunt and then advanced to second on a wild pitch from starting pitcher Mikayla Deigan. The next batter drove a single into the outfield and a relay throw came in to Kaufman to try and tag out the runner. She got the throw in time, but the ball came out when she went for the tag and the runner scored.
During the throw, the batter advanced to second, and then to third off the error. She then came home two batters later on a fielder’s choice to second base.
UGF had one last gasp in the bottom of the 7th. With 2 outs left, Canibeyaz singled to left, which brought up Deigan. In her previous at bat, the redshirt-freshman drove a high-arching shot that came just feet away from leaving the outfield. She couldn’t recreate that power, grounding into a fielder’s choice to end the game.
Henderson and Gonazles were the heroes of the day offensively for UGF. The former went 4-7 from the plate with 2 RBI, 2 Runs, and her first triple as a Lady Argo in the two games. The latter went 3-6, with 4 RBI, 1 Run, and her first home run of the season.
The loss in Game 2 was UGF’s first loss of the season, bringing the team’s record to 7-1 (1-1). The Lady Argos will get two more cracks at the Fighting Saints on Saturday, March 4. The first game will be at Noon and will count towards each team’s conference record, while the second game of the doubleheader will be at 2 p.m. but will count as a non-conference game.