TWIN FALLS — The College of Southern Idaho softball team has been on a tear through the first half of Scenic West Athletic Conference play, and it continued its winning ways against Salt Lake Community College this weekend.
The Golden Eagles, ranked No. 8 in the most recent NJCAA Division I softball poll, won the weekend series 3-1 against the 4th-ranked Bruins, splitting Friday’s games.
The first of the Friday doubleheader began well for CSI as it entered the fifth inning up 6-2, but SLCC loaded the bases with no outs. The Bruins knocked in four runners on three hits, then loaded the bases up one more time for a grand slam by Ashlee Snyder that gave them a 10-6 lead.
“We probably should have worked her a little better in that situation,” CSI head coach Nick Baumert said, “but she’s a great hitter, and we had no place to put her.”
The lead stretched to 15-8 entering the bottom of the seventh inning, but the Golden Eagles went down swinging. Nicole Renner led off the inning with a solo home run, then Sierrah Anderson turned on a pitch with the bases loaded to hit the second grand slam of the game.
The next batter went down swinging to end the game with a 15-13 loss, but Baumert said the fight at the end was a good sign.
“We talked about heading into the bottom of the seventh and changing the momentum,” he said. “Even though (SLCC) was up eight, we were going to send them a message that we’re here for the day.”
The Golden Eagles responded early in the final game of the series, scoring three runs in the first inning for a 3-0 lead. For nearly the entire game, the Golden Eagles did well reaching base, whether by hit or walk, but often recorded outs with two or three runners stranded, letting SLCC keep close throughout.
With a 7-5 lead in the top of the seventh, a bit of controversy arose after a Bruins batter was hit by a pitch from CSI pitcher Stefani Zimmerman. The home plate umpire ruled that she leaned into the pitch and thus had to return to bat.
A lengthy period of time passed before the umpires agreed on the ruling — one even rushed out to get a rulebook for confirmation. After that, SLCC head coach Cyndee Bennett spent a few minutes arguing the ruling.
Zimmerman, who pitched the whole game, had to wait for nearly 10 minutes and wasn’t allowed to throw any pitches to warm back up. Though Baumert and Bennett had some words before Zimmerman took the mound again, Baumert didn’t accuse the Bruins of intentionally stalling.
“You get into a rivalry matchup on the weekend, in game four, and tensions just get pretty hot,” he said.
Zimmerman ended up walking that batter and gave up the tying runs. CSI went three up, three down at the plate to end the seventh inning, but Zimmerman responded with three quick outs in the top of the eighth.
Nicole Renner walked and Melanie Groenewegen hit a hard infield single to start the bottom of the frame, but Anjalee Batchelor popped up and Mikelle Magalogo struck out looking in the next two at-bats.
“With the called strike three, you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, here we go again,’” Baumert said in reference to earlier innings with runners left stranded.
But the next batter up was arguably CSI’s best this season: Tristin Evans. She boasted a team leading .533 average, a 1.122 slugging percentage and 15 home runs entering the Friday doubleheader.
Evans had to work her at-bat and foul off pitches, especially a couple towards the outside of the plate, where Magalogo was caught looking in the previous at bat.
“They’d been pitching me outside all day, so I just tried to stay down and find one to drive,” Evans said.
She found one and drove it all the way to the outfield wall, scoring Renner’s pinch-runner, Sherry Boone, in walkoff fashion to give CSI an 8-7 victory.
Evans led CSI at the plate in Friday’s games, batting 5-for-7 with five RBIs and three runs. Groenewegen went 4-for-8 and plated five runs.
Zimmerman was charged with all seven runs in her winning performance on the mound in game four, allowing 11 hits while striking out six.
The series win was “special,” Baumert said, even though SLCC snapped CSI’s 17-game winning streak.
“You get into a weekend like this against the No. 4 team in the nation, not that you’re expecting to lose one, but you know you’re going to have to hang on,” he said. “We talked at the start of the weekend about weathering the storm, and I thought we did really well with that all weekend.”
Salt Lake entered the first game of the series with a 16-game win streak and the lead in SWAC play, but CSI pulled one game ahead of the Bruins in the conference standings at 20-4 (30-8 overall).
The Golden Eagles still have 16 conference games before the SWAC tournament, including next week’s series at home against Snow — the team that handed CSI its last loss before the winning streak began.
Baumert said the focus will be trying to get some rest for his injured players, including Renner, whose knee buckled on a cut back to second base in the last inning of the second game.
“We just need to get healthy both physically and mentally, get our reps in and get back at it,” Baumert said. “Snow’s a club that always plays us well, so we have to be ready.”