Thunderbirds Use Explosive Fifth Inning to Stun Bears
CEDAR CITY, Utah - The Southern Utah softball team hosted the Northern Colorado Bears Saturday morning for the final game of a three-game series between the two Big Sky opponents. They came into the day having not scored more than 10 runs in a single game yet this season.
The Thunderbirds ended up not only breaking that 10-run mark, they did it all in one inning.
Things didn’t start the way Southern Utah would have liked Saturday morning. The Bears put together eight hits, including three extra-base hits, and scored three runs in the first four innings off of starting pitcher Kirsten Hostetler. On the offensive side of things the Thunderbirds were only able to collect three hits as a team and were in the process of being shut out by Jayme Reddacliff through the first four innings. Then everything changed in the fifth inning.
Hostetler came out in the fifth and seemed to have finally found her groove. She set the tone for the inning by sitting the Bears’ fifth, sixth, and seventh batters down in order. “Kirsten really turned a corner there in that last inning where she decided she was going to come off the mound really hard. She was pitching to win at that point and it made a big difference for us on our way to earning the win,” head coach Tom Gray said of Hostetler’s performance.
Down 3-0, left fielder Payton Hart came to the plate to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning for the Thunderbirds. Hart drew a walk from Reddacliff and sparked the biggest rally of the season. Center fielder Sarah Murphy, right fielder Nicole Simonson, and shortstop Kendall Kapitzke hit back-to-back-to-back singles following Hart’s walk making it 3-2 Northern Colorado.
After a groundout by Karlee Manzione, first baseman Megan Reed tied the game with an RBI single of her own and second baseman Jessie Wilson gave the Thunderbirds the lead with her first RBI of the season. However, the scoring didn’t stop there.
Catcher Morgan Leonard drew a walk to load the bases once again and Hart drew her second walk of the inning to give the Thunderbirds a 5-3 lead. Murphy made it 6-3 by knocking in Wilson with her second hit of the inning, bringing up Simonson with two outs and bases loaded. The sophomore cranked a 2-0 pitch from Bears’ relief pitcher Chandler Elsner over the fence in left center for her first home run of the season, putting the Thunderbirds up by seven runs, one short of the eight-run rule.
The grand slam brought Kapitzke to the plate once again. Having already earned 2 RBIs in the inning, the shortstop decided to add just one more when she hit a walkoff home run to left field, putting an exclamation point on an 11-run fifth inning and giving the Thunderbirds an 11-3 win over the Bears.
“Wow. I mean people had great at bats at the plate and we just started stringing hits together,” Gray said after the win. “It would be a shame to pick out any one person, but I have to say Nicole Simonson with a grand slam for her first home run and to put us up seven would have to be the one.”
The win gives the Thunderbirds their first Big Sky series win of the season and a 2-1 record after the first weekend of conference play. “This series as a whole was between two teams that didn’t want to give up. You have to hand it to Northern Colorado. They did a great job, swung the bats really well, and got some timely hitting, but our kids were not going to give up. I think this is a great sign for the future for us,” Gray said.
Coming Up Next
The Thunderbirds will be back in action next weekend when they travel to Missoula for a three-game Big Sky series with the Montana Grizzlies.
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