Saturday , May 13, 2017 - 6:09 PM
OGDEN — After Weber State took a 2-1 lead, the Montana Grizzlies scored seven runs in the fourth inning Saturday at the Wildcat Softball Complex.
The deficit proved to be too big for the Weber State Wildcats to overcome and Montana won 9-5 to claim the Big Sky Conference tournament championship.
“We had opportunities again, and we couldn’t shut down their offense,” WSU head coach Mary Kay Amicone said. “When you have thrown the same pitcher so many times, you’ve got to be able to run support. You’ve got to be able to give them five or six runs like (Montana) did.
“They’re a great team. They played the game well and we wish them all the best. We just didn’t have enough in the tank.”
The Wildcats responded in the third when Takesha Saltern stole home after an errant throw to try and catch Sara Hingsberger stealing second. Saltern got to third on a stand-up triple to lead off the inning.
But the Wildcats could not get out of the fourth inning.
Montana loaded the bases on several occasions in the frame, pushing across seven runs on two two-RBI singles and three singles that scored a run each.
“Games added up. Pitched innings added up,” Amicone said. “That’s why that game was critical last night. We know that. We knew it would be a fight today to get through three games. They have the depth and right now we’re a little bit knicked up. We’ve used a lot of body parts.”
Weber State showed fight, scoring a run when Riana Splinter drove in Saltern to make it an 8-3 game in the fifth. But Montana held more Wildcat baserunners in scoring position and answered with a run in the bottom of the fifth to go up 9-3.
The Wildcats scored two more in the sixth, but there was no magic to be found in the seventh as Montana recorded three quick outs to win the game and the championship.
“This season has been a great season. It really has,” Amicone said. “To win the regular season with such a new group and to withstand the injury to McKinley (Brinkerhoff), I’m really proud of our determination to win it. It isn’t exactly how we scripted it, but it’s all learning. I think it’s great.”
It’s not over for the Wildcats. Their regular season-championship earned an automatic bid to the National Invitational Softball Championship. Other teams in the field and tournament sites will be announced late Sunday night after NCAA Tournament selection.
“This is a bitter pill to swallow,” Amicone said of the championship loss. “Our vision has always been the NCAA (Tournament), but it is important to understand the opportunity to play on and the great support of the university to play on.”
Weber State advanced to the rematch with Montana by defeating Idaho State 8-6 in the first game Saturday morning.
The Wildcats built a 7-1 lead in the fifth and held on for the win.
Contact sports reporter Brandon Garside at email@example.com, on Twitter @BrandonGarside and on Facebook.com/BrandonGarsideSE.
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