Nevada softball overtakes Hawaii for first place | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada softball overtakes Hawaii for first place

Nevada softball overtakes Hawaii for first place

BY DARRELL MOODY

Appeal Sports Writer

RENO – Alone at the top.

That’s where the Nevada softball team finds itself after sweeping Hawaii 4-1 and 7-6 Saturday afternoon at Christina Hixson Softball Park in a Western Athletic Conference doubleheader.

Nevada improved to 31-14 overall and 9-2 in the conference. Hawaii dropped to 7-3 in conference and 31-13 overall and fell 1 1/2 games behind the Pack.

“It feels awesome,” said former Douglas star Brittany Puzey, who went 3-for-6, scored three times and drove in a run. “Hopefully we can go out and get another one today and be in the driver’s seat.”

The Pack goes for a series sweep, weather permitting, today at 2 p.m. with Katie Holverson opposing either Courtney Baughman or Kate Robinson.

The momentum certainly favors Nevada, which capped the doubleheader sweep with a five-run rally in the bottom of the seventh to erase a 6-2 deficit. Michelle Beach delivered the game-winning hit with a two-out single to left-center field to score Kym Silagyi with the game-winning run.

Noelle Micka led off the seventh with a triple off Kate Robinson and scored on Puzey’s sacrifice fly, which atoned for an earlier baserunning mistake. Vanessa Briones followed with a solo homer to make it 6-4. Britton Murdock reached on an error and Sam Bias, after a 17-pitch at bat which featured 12 foul balls, singled Murdock to second. After Kelsey Starr fouled out, Silagyi and Patrick singled to tie the game. On Patrick’s single, the throw from center beat Bias but Katie Grimes was unable to hold onto the ball. That set the stage for Beach’s game-winner.

“I was watching the pitcher,” Beach said. “I knew what she was throwing. I just waited for my pitch. To me, pressure is being unprepared. I was ready.”

Probably the least surprised person about the Pack’s rally was coach Michelle Gardner.

“That’s what Top 25 teams do,” she said. “I felt like we were flat going into that game. Defensively we didn’t play well. We made a lot of errors and that was the cause of their six runs.

“Michelle off the bench was huge. She hasn’t had a lot of at-bats recently. I was excited for her.”

Nevada’s second-game barrage included five runs scored with two outs. All told, nine of Nevada’s 11 runs in the doubleheader came after two out.

“I’m proud of the way we executed,” Gardner said. “We’ve been pretty good all year long. I’m excited about that.”

Trailing 6-0 entering the bottom of the fifth, Murdock delivered a two-run, two-out double that got the ball rolling. Sylagi, Patrick and Beach contributed two-out hits in the nightcap.

Richelle Villescas improved to 5-0 on the mound, relieving an ineffective Jordan McPherson in the fourth. Villescas scattered six hits over 3 2/3 innings.

In the opener, Nevada relied on the six-hit pitching of Holverson and the hitting of Puzey and Murdock to win.

Puzey doubled and scored on Murdock’s double for a 1-0 lead. Hawaii tied the game at 1, using hits by Robinson, Valana Manuma and Richie-Anne Titcomb.

Puzey hit a one-out double to left, stole third and scored when the catcher’s throw sailed into the outfield. Murdock made it 3-1 with a run-scoring single in the fifth and Patrick finished the scoring with a solo homer in the sixth.

Holverson retired 15 of the last 18 batters she faced in picking up her 15th win against five losses.

“I threw the same thing I always do – the rise ball,” Holverson said. “I’ve been getting better. I’m improving every game. It’s nice that it’s happening now.”

• Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281