Home was extra sweet for the Fort Lewis softball team Sunday, gifting two one-run, come-from-behind wins on a sunny, season-opening doubleheader against the Colorado School of Mines at Aspen Field.FLC's heroes were easy to spot.
Freshman pitcher Alyssa Rahm pitched four scoreless innings to hold on for a 3-2 win in the first, then recorded a cold-blooded save in the 5-4 late game. Not to be outdone, hot-hitting freshman right fielder Chelena Coulston had not one, but two game-winning hits: a walk-off single and a rally-capping grand slam.
"It was a great day for us," FLC head coach Pam Adams said. "We didn't think we hit quite as well as we could, so hopefully (today) we'll do a better job of hitting in certain spots, but the kids just kept battling.
"They don't care how far they get down, or if they get down. They just keep playing. They don't want to give up."
Fort Lewis moved to 7-5 and 4-2 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
Colorado Mines dropped to 12-9 and also is 4-2 in the RMAC.
"They have some really good pitching," Adams said of Colorado Mines. "We're really proud of our pitchers for firing back (Sunday). They've had a rough couple of weeks, and they worked hard this past week. They're hitting locations better, their speed's back up, so we're really proud of those two kids."
Rahm (5-2), the second half of a freshman rotation that also includes Stephanie Janes, allowed just one earned run in her complete game effort, walking just two and allowing six hits while striking out one.
Still, the Skyhawks trailed 2-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth, when FLC shortstop Ashley Hibbs plated Jordan Willis on a single to right field.
Catcher Desirea Gil kept the momentum going in the seventh with a double to right. Left fielder Stevie Benedict was hit by a pitch to put the winning run on base, but a Fort Lewis strikeout and groundout put the pressure on infielder Amber Massey, who delivered with a pinch-hit single that scored Gil and tied the game.
After a Willis walk, Coulston knocked in Benedict for the game-winning RBI with a single to left field.
"It was really great to have such great team support," Rahm said. "Being on our home field, it really didn't feel like much of an advantage to start with, because we've only been practicing for a week, but coming out here with snow on the field this morning, we overcame everything and prevailed."
Coulston and Rahm, from Farmington High School, ratcheted up their late-game exploits for the second game.
Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth, the young Skyhawks again rallied, this time starting with a Natalie Janes double to left center, a Denae Benally single and a Willis walk.
Then Coulston did her thing, driving a towering shot over the right-center field fence to treat the home crowd with a grand slam.
"Chelena's been on fire all year," Adams said. "She's just putting the bat on the ball square. You saw what happened on that grand slam: She was just trying to hit it out of the infield, and she got it out of both the infield and outfield. Huge hit."
After Stephanie Janes allowed two runs in the bottom of the sixth to reduce the margin to one, Rahm was called upon for her second appearance of the day with the bases loaded.
"I guess the best way to describe the feeling is you just know you have to get the job done," Rahm said. "You can't have a question in your mind. I knew that my team had my back and that they would finish the job, and they did."
The freshman hurler forced a groundout to end the trouble, then sent Colorado Mines down 1-2-3 in the seventh.
Adams was thankful for Sunday's conditions.
"It was beautiful (Sunday)," she said. "We hope the weather stays well (Monday). I know the wind's supposed to blow, but if it's in the 50s, we'll be happy. That's a heat wave for us."
The Skyhawks host another doubleheader with the Colorado School of Mines at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. at Aspen Field today.
"Mines is a very good team," Adams said. "They're going to come back firing (today), and we hope our kids can step up and be ready for the challenge."