Tigers' Bats Come Out To Overcome The Highlanders, 9-8

#18 Nicole Matson - Photo by: Sal Rivera
#18 Nicole Matson - Photo by: Sal Rivera
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Riverside, Calif. - Combining the scripts from the previous day, the Pacific softball team used an offensive outburst and a late game rally to take home a 9-8 win over UC Riverside on Saturday, April 7.  The win gave the Tigers the season sweep of the Highlanders for the second straight season and improved their record to 24-13 overall and 4-2 in Big West play.  For the Highlanders, the loss dropped their record to 18-20 overall and 1-5 in conference action.

A day after rallying late to take the opening game of the series the Tigers were forced to again come from behind to secure victory as the Highlanders used a huge first inning to put Pacific behind the eight ball.  In the first, UCR sent all nine of its batters to the plate and scored six runs to jump all over the Tigers and take the early lead.  In the inning, Pacific relinquished four hits and helped out the Highlanders with a pair of errors of its own in the field to give up the six spot on the board.

Despite the extremely rough start to their contest, the Tigers were not discouraged as they immediately responded with their own big inning in the top of the second to make the game into a true contest.  One upping the Highlanders from the first, Pacific sent 10 batters to the plate in the second and scored four runs on a pair of one-out doubles by the top third of the lineup.  Setting up the inning, however, was the bottom of Pacific's order as the final four in the lineup for the Tigers set the table by working a pair of walks and a single to load the bases for the top.  With runners on, junior Megan Hom struck the first blow to the Highlanders' lead as the center fielder roped a double off the center field fence to get Pacific started.  Two batters later, sophomore Kelsey Rodriguez smashed a double off the wall in center as well to plate two more runs and get the Tigers back to with in two of the Highlanders.

Back in the game, the Tigers saw their chase of the Highlanders grow harder two innings later when a leadoff walk turned into a seventh run for UCR.  The Highlanders would use a stolen base to set up the score before a two-out chopper up the middle found its way to the grass and pushed the score to 7-4.

Getting right back to work and putting the run relinquished behind them, the Tigers pulled to within one at 7-6 in the top of the fourth inning as Pacific posted a pair of runs on just two swings of the bat.  Staying red hot at the plate, Rodriguez started the inning for the Tigers by pulling a mistake pitch over the left field fence for her fifth home run of the season.  One out later, senior Nicole Matson decided to get in on the fun as the slugging shortstop lifted a 3-2 pitch the other way over the right-center field fence to pull the Tigers back within a single run.  The home run was the 10th of the season for Matson and was just a taste of what was to come.  Additionally, the home run moved the senior into a tie for sixth place overall on the single-season home runs list, a rung on the ladder she would hang out on for only a short period of time. 

Back to within one, the Tigers would tie the game for the first time since the initial 0-0 score in the top of the fifth inning when the top of the order rallied for a two-out run to knot the game at 7-7.  Starting the mini rally, Hom blooped a single into shallow left field and proceeded to steal second to put herself in scoring position. With Hom near pay dirt, sophomore Megan Foglesong provided the game-tying hit with a single up the middle that brought Hom home for the seventh run of the game.  The run would be the only one the Tigers would get in the inning as an inadvertent interference went against Pacific on the play at the plate that resulted in the final out of the inning being called against the Tigers after the run crossed the plate.

The mistake in the fifth proved tough as the Highlanders had a response to the suddenly tie game in the bottom of the inning when a fourth Tiger error gifted UCR a third unearned run and the eighth run of the contest to put them back ahead. 

Despite finding themselves trailing once again, the Tigers went back to work and put the finishing touches on their full game comeback as junior Nikki Armagost and Matson powered the Tigers two runs in the sixth.  With one out in the inning, Armagost just missed tying the game at 8-8 as the junior belted a double off the top of the fence in left to put the tying run in scoring position.  With her teammate setting the table, Matson cleared it with one mighty swing as the senior crushed a 2-2 pitch over the scoreboard in left field to give Pacific its first and final lead of the afternoon.  The home run bumped Matson into a tie for third on the single-season home runs list with three other season performances including her 2011 performance from a season ago.  Additionally, the home run marked the second time in 2012 the senior has hit two home runs in a single game as Matson went deep twice for the Tigers in their 6-1 win over Delaware on March 2.

Holding their first lead of the day, the Tigers looked to freshman Dani Bonnet to finish off the victory and get the team back home with a sweep on the road of the Highlanders.  Having already thrown 4.2 innings of relief after entering the game in the first with just one out recorded, Bonnet was up to the task, getting out of trouble in the sixth before mowing down the Highlanders in the seventh to grab the win.  Most fittingly for the freshman, Bonnet ended the game by freezing the final batter she faced with a change up that crossed over the heart of the plate for the final of four strikeouts in the game.  Bonnet earned the victory to improve to 7-5 overall on the year and 1-1 in Big West play.  She threw 6.2 innings of relief for the Tigers while giving up four hits and two runs, one earned, to pitch Pacific past the Highlanders.

Sophomore Tori Shepard, the Tigers' hottest pitcher coming into the contest, came away with the no decision after lasting one third of an inning despite giving up just one hard hit ball.  The sophomore was tagged for six runs, four earned, and gave up four hits during her outing.

Offensively, the Tigers posted a 12 hit performance against the Highlanders as Hom led the way with three hits in five trips to the plate.  Behind Hom, Rodriguez, Armagost and Matson each picked up a pair of hits with Rodriguez and Matson each recording three RBI.

The Tigers will be back in action on Wednesday, April 11, when they jump out of conference play for the final time to host Santa Clara in an evening doubleheader at Bill Simoni Field.  The two teams will square off at 4:00 pm for the first game of the night.