|Posted February 24, 2008|
Pack stays hot, ends Mile High Invite 4-1
The fact that the ThunderWolves got Ashley Aldrich, a centerfielder who was an all-tournament selection on the NJCAA Champion Pima Community College softball team, was the softball equivalent of hitting the Power Ball.
Aldrich, who could have practically picked whatever school she wanted to go to, felt comfortable at CSU-Pueblo. And needless to say, after 11 games in 2008, and winning four of five at the Mile High Tournament this weekend, the ThunderWolves feel comfortable with her.
Aldrich went 3-for-5 over the Pack's three games Sunday, sending two over the fence for homers and drawing four walks as the ThunderWolves claimed wins over Colorado Mines and the University of Mary Sunday, while dropping the tourney finale to conference lynchpin, UC-Colorado Springs.
"For her to be interested in coming here was pretty incredible," Pack coach Shane Showalter said of the process that led to Aldrich's signing. "But we all hit it off really well, and it was a good fit for everyone. We knew it would just be a matter of time before she got in a rhythm at the plate at that's what she's done lately."
In the day's first game, Aldrich joined with her top-of-the-lineup mates, leadoff hitter Janine Tyler and number-two Kari Romero, to go 5-for-9 on the game. In the first inning alone, the trio each reached in succession, with Aldrich hitting the RBI single to give the Pack an early and important 1-0 lead.
In the circle, pitcher Kelsey Swanberg made sure Mines wouldn't make any credible threats to that lead, allowing four hits and K'ing nine, powering the Pack to a 5-1 win. Swanberg's performance caps a weekend where she made two starts, allowing only eight hits over 14 innings, striking out 17 and boasting a combined ERA of 1.93 in the process.
Even more impressive - Swanberg pulled off her weekend performance reeling from sickness, fighting off a bout of pink eye and bronchitus.
"Our pitching really was the key this weekend," Showalter said. "She really came out and put it together (yesterday) against Regis, and she's been hitting her spots. But she's probably only pitching at 80 percent, and she's not even there yet."
The ThunderWolves followed that up with another win, a 6-5 decision over Mary, by relying on much the same formula. Tyler, Romero and Aldrich went 4-for-7 on the game, while the Pack's number-two, Alyssa Hansen, put together her second straight solid performance, holding the Marauders to only one run through five innings. A late surge by Mary threatened the lead, but the Pack circled the wagons, as Amber Higby came through with the save.
A late 7-2 loss to UC-Colorado Springs didn't undo a weekend that saw the Pack make great strides. Entering with a 1-5 record and record-low self-confidence as a team, winning four of five was the ultimate medicine.
"I always knew we had the talent level to win games, and I expected us to win right away this season," Showalter said. "When we didn't, it was shocking. And I think the girls started to wonder if they were good enough to win. But this weekend really put the girls in a place where they understand now what they're capable of. They can trust themselves on the field now and just go out and play softball."
The ThunderWolves will return home next weekend for their first four-game conference series of the season when they entertain Chadron State.