USM softball rallies from 6-0 deficit to win opener

There is a lot of softball season to play for these University of Saint Mary Spires, but they did serve notice on day one that they fully intend to make things exciting, competitive and aligned with a bevy of wins to claim along this 2017 journey.

Trailing 6-0 early and by two runs in extra innings, the Spires found the resolve and fight that first-year head coach Hayley Siebman was pleased to see to rally for a 10-9 victory over 20th-ranked Central Methodist University on a single by Tycee Coplan in the bottom of the ninth inning.

The victory, in the opener of a doubleheader, came on Coplan’s hit that dribbled slowly down the right side of the infield and brought home the winning run to cap a 3-run rally.

In the nightcap, the teams battled to a 2-2 tie through four innings before being called for darkness.

Hannah Gradillas (three hits), Selena Ruiz (two hits, two RBI) and Kaila Trowbridge (two RBI) keyed the USM win.

Siebman was pleased with the grit her team showed in pulling out the opening victory in a game that lasted over three-and-a-half hours.

“One of our wish goals for this year was to beat a ranked team and it is unbelievable that we did it in the first game of the season,” Siebman said. “It is very, very early in the year so we can be excited about it, celebrate it for a little here and then move on. For me as a head coach, it is my first (collegiate) head coaching win. It means so much to me. So many of our girls stepped up in so many of those big situations. We used all three of our pitchers…we have to clean up the defense. We really need people to start stepping up as infielders.

“Overall, it means a lot for a long season ahead.”

The Spires committed four errors, many of which put the team in some critical situations they managed to battle out of in most cases.

It was a game featuring a fascinating dichotomy of play that put them in a hole while performing well enough to battle back from a big deficit against a quality opponent.

“Athletes feed off of each others’ success,” Siebman said. “They had the 6-0 and they fed off of it. Then we (rallied) and we fed off of it. I am so proud of them. There are a lot of teams that would roll over if they were down 6-0 to the No. 20 team in the nation. I admire the fight and it was kind of a dogfight with 19 runs scored between the two teams. It was a pretty wild game.”

The Eagles took a 1-0 lead on a two-out, bloop single in the second inning that just slipped past Spire third baseman Selena Ruiz.

CMU added another run to build an early 2-0 cushion.

USM responded with a rally in the bottom half of the frame, loading the bases with two out via three walks, but a ground out snuffed out the threat.

Capitalizing on the stop, the Eagles scored four runs in the top of the third inning to push their lead to 6-0.

However, the Spires wouldn’t relent in their hopes of coming back and managed to scratch out two unearned runs behind an Eagle error following singles by Kayla Hackney and Ruiz.

That response went a long way in turned the tide and keeping the Spires in contention.

“We talked about winning every inning and that’s what we are trying to do,” Siebman said. “If they score four, we may not be able to score four, but we are going to put some back on the board. That’s success to me. In a seven-inning game it is not over until it’s over. Whether it’s seven, nine or 12 innings, you never how much you will be playing. Responding to any type of big inning like that by even putting one or two up, it shows this team is not going to give up. It’s awesome.”

Then in the bottom of the fourth inning, the Spires continued to feel the mojo with a two-out rally behind a two-run double by Ruiz, who scored on the next at-bat via a Hackney single. 

Heading into the fifth, the Spires had pulled to within 6-5.

The Eagles bumped their edge up to two runs in their next at-bat, but once again the Spires were ready for another two-out rally.

Gradillas laced a solid triple that brought home Trowbridge and once again, the Spires were within a run, 7-6.

Still down one in the bottom of sixth inning, the Spires got a runner on second with one out, and a batter later DeSimone hit a bloop single to forge a 7-7 tie.

Both teams teased with the idea of taking the lead before extra innings became a reality, but failed to do so and they moved to the eighth.

The teams moved to the ninth still tied and there, the Eagles took a 9-7 lead on a one-out, two-run homer.

That edge didn’t stick as the resilient Spires fought back, yet again, as they tied the game on 2-run double by Trowbridge to bring home Alana Renshaw and Carrie Lee.

Gradillas then hit a bloop single to put runners on the corners with one out to set ups Coplan’s heroics.