Softball splits home opener thanks to walk-off home run
After losing the first game of a double header with New Mexico, Ally Kutz hit a walk-off home run, g
Published: Friday, March 15, 2013
Updated: Friday, March 15, 2013 01:03
Like the majority of her teammates, Ally Kutz was not having a good day when she stepped into the batter’s box for her final at-bat Thursday.
The Oregon State senior catcher went 0-for-4 in the day’s first game, a 5-3 loss to New Mexico. She went hitless in her first two at-bats of game two, which was tied at four when she stepped to the plate to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning.
It took one pitch for her to turn her day, as well as the Beavers’, around.
“I struggled all day, so I was just going in there looking for one pitch, zoning in on the ball,” Kutz said. “And I got my pitch.”
The result was a walk-off home run, which improved the No. 23 Beavers’ record to 21-5. It was OSU’s second win by way of a walk-off home run this season.
“It’s kind of exhilarating, running around the bases knowing you just won the game,” Kutz said. “But the game didn’t just come down to one swing. We had a lot of big contributors in the sixth inning.”
The Beavers trailed the Lobos (14-17), who had not beaten a ranked team before OSU, 4-1 entering the bottom of the sixth inning of game two.
Sophomore center fielder Dani Gilmore began the inning by drawing a walk. Two batters later, senior shortstop Elizabeth Santana singled. Then freshman first baseman Natalie Hampton drew a free pass to load the bases for senior Lea Cavestany, who promptly delivered a two-run single.
Then Hampton, who was on third, was replaced by pinch runner Mollee Schwegler, a senior who joined the team this week after her collegiate basketball career ended last week. Schwegler averaged 19.9 minutes per game for Scott Rueck’s squad, and joined the softball team specifically to pinch run.
The move paid off, as Schwegler scored on a wild pitch with two outs to tie the game.
“We got this surge of energy in the sixth inning, from the dugout all the way to the field, it helped give everyone more confidence,” Kutz said.
“At that point, it was a now-or-never thing,” Hampton said. “After the first game, we were really upset, so I feel like the last two innings [of game two] was a good showing of what we’re really all about.”
Coming from behind to win has become a trademark of this team.
“That’s one thing these guys have, is they have fight,” said head coach Laura Berg. “They fight every day in practice when they’re conditioning. They’ve got heart, they’ve got guts and they fight, and that’s what they did that last game.”
But what about the first game?
“I was very, very surprised,” Berg said. “I don’t know how you come out flat like that in an opening home game. For the life of me I don’t understand that. They heard it from us. Hopefully that doesn’t ever happen again.”
In game one, the Beavers held a 3-2 lead before New Mexico scored two runs in the fifth inning and one more in the sixth. Senior starting pitcher Marina Demore allowed just four hits, but it was the five free passes she issued that hurt her. Offensively, OSU amassed 15 base runners, but only three crossed the plate.
“We left a small village on base that first game, good grief,” Berg said. “We didn’t come up with that clutch hit, that timely hit, and that’s something we’ve got to improve. If you want to go to the World Series, you have to come up with timely hits.”
The Beavers don’t play again until March 24, when they face UC Davis in Davis, Calif.