Softball eager for busy weekend

The U softball team (12-20) has a full slate this weekend, with five games in three days.

Friday afternoon (3 p.m., Ute Softball Field) they face the Cal-Riverside Highlanders (11-31), who have dropped their last four games.

The Utes beat Riverside handily earlier this season, and should have no problem if whirler Lindsie Nielsen picks up where she left off against Utah State on Wednesday.

The junior spelled a slightly erratic Brianna Gourdin for five innings of no-hit relief, allowing just one Aggie baserunner. Though she is only 4-10 on the season, the Salt Lake Community College transfer seems to have acclimated herself of late to Division I hitting. She has only yielded three earned runs in her last 17 innings, yet she is 0-2 over the span.

The sputtering offense has made wins tough to come by for the Ute starters, though the bats finally seemed to heat up right at the end of Wednesday’s contest against the Aggies.

The Utes have only scored four runs in their last four games overall. If Gourdin’s start against the Aggies was any indication, she may be starting to feel the frustration.

Coach Mona Stevens has decided to give the streaking Nielsen the starting nod against Cal-Riverside on Friday and the game one starts in both doubleheaders. Gourdin is probable for both game twos.

Saturday’s twin billing features Mountain West foes Colorado State (25-13). The Rams play eight hitters with averages of .320 or better, but Jessica Strickland stands out above the rest with a team-best .397 clip to go along with a 1.88 ERA as the Rams’ best starting pitcher.

New Mexico (13-20) visits on Sunday, giving the Utes another look at potential opponents in the MWC Tournament, which begins May 12.

Next Wednesday the Utes will head to Logan to try grab a win back from USU, before returning home for doubleheaders against UNLV and San Diego State next weekend.

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