SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Behind a pair of quality starts by Colleen Driscoll and Michaela Hood, the Montana softball team swept a doubleheader against Sacramento State on Sunday afternoon at Shea Stadium.
The Grizzlies (21-19, 6-3 BSC) won the opener 3-2 to pick up their first win at Sacramento State (13-20-1, 3-5 BSC) in five tries. They won the second game by the same score to move into first place in the Big Sky Conference with three of seven league weekends now complete.
The victories on Sunday give Montana three series wins through three weekends of Big Sky games and have the Grizzlies a half-game up on preseason favorite Weber State (5-3 BSC), which had one of its games at Sacramento State on the first league weekend of the season rained out.
It was also the first time Montana has taken a series from Sacramento State, and Sunday’s wins that allowed that to happen came with plenty of drama.
The leadoff batter reached base for the Hornets in the bottom of seventh in both games, and the tying or winning run was on the bases when the final out of each game was made.
“Ten years. Ten years have been taken off my life,” joked coach Jamie Pinkerton.
Driscoll (4-5) pitched into the seventh in the opener before being relieved by Maddy Stensby, who got Sacramento State’s top two hitters, Zamari Hinton and Suzy Brookshire, to fly out with runners on first and second for the final outs. It was Stensby’s third save of the season.
Hood took the loss on Saturday when Montana fell 5-3 in the series opener. She was back to her dominant self on Sunday, pitching a complete-game three-hitter while striking out nine.
She allowed the potential tying run to reach third base in the bottom of the seventh with one out, but coaxed a popup on a safety-squeeze bunt attempt and a groundout to shortstop for the final outs of the series to improve to 10-4 and drop her ERA to 2.21.
Driscoll gave up an unearned run in the bottom of the first in the opener, then settled in and kept the Hornets off the board until they scored one more in the bottom of the seventh.
She got out of a second-and-third jam in the fourth inning by forcing a groundout back to herself, which helped preserve the 2-1 lead Montana took in the top of the third when Sydney Stites singled with the bases loaded and two outs.
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Montana added a big run in the top of the sixth to make it 3-1. Delene Colburn singled through the left side, and pinch runner Kylie Hayton scored from first on a double to left field by Madison Saacke.
Driscoll allowed a single to the leadoff batter in the seventh, and that runner would score on another single with one out, which sent Pinkerton to the mound to replace his starter with Stensby.
Stensby walked the first batter she faced to give Sacramento State runners at first and second with one out and the Hornets’ top two hitters due up. She got Hinton to fly out to left, Brookshire to fly out to center.
Hood was touched up for six hits and four runs, only two of which were earned, on Saturday in 3.1 innings. She looked more like a two-time Big Sky Conference Pitcher of the Week in her start on Sunday.
Montana gave her a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Colburn singled home Ashlyn Lyons, who had doubled and then reached third on a Bethany Olea groundout.
Hood gave up the lead in the bottom of the first when she fielded a comebacker to the circle and lofted one over Lyons’ head at first, which led to an unearned run.
Saacke put Montana up 3-1 in the third when she drove in Lyons, who reached base when she was hit by a pitch, and Olea, who singled.
The Grizzlies could have made it a lot easier on themselves, on Hood and on Pinkerton had they come through at the plate. They stranded two runners in the fourth, two in the fifth and three more in the sixth when Stites grounded out with the bases loaded.
They stranded 11 runners in game two on Sunday, matching the number they stranded in the series opener on Saturday.
Southern Utah (5-4 BSC) and Idaho State (4-4 BSC) are both one back in the loss column.
Montana is scheduled to host Northern Colorado (16-24, 4-5 BSC), which took two of three at home over the weekend from Weber State, later this week at Grizzly Softball Field. The teams are slated to play a doubleheader at 2:30 p.m. Friday and a single game at 1 p.m. Saturday.