It was a perfect start to the season for the Nevada softball team.
After winning its season opener against Cal State Bakersfield at the Kajikawa Classic, the 23rd-ranked Wolf Pack took a dramatic 2-1 victory over No. 9 Northwestern in the second game of the day, an 11-inning thriller.
Tempe native Kelsey Starr provided the heroics, a two-out single to left in the bottom of the 11th inning to score Britton Murdock.
“That was a postseason type of game,” said first-year coach Matt Meuchel. “It was a great ballgame to be a part of and it was an awesome game to win.”
That made a winner out of junior Katie Holverson, who put forth perhaps the best pitching performance in school history. Holverson pitched all 11 innings and struck out a school-record 17 batters. She allowed just two hits and walked three – two of them intentionally.
“It is hard to describe just how great her performance was,” Meuchel said. “For 11 innings, she faced five over the minimum and two of those are intentional walks. She was blowing people away. She only made one bad pitch the entire game.”
The pitchers dominated throughout but Nevada scratched out a run in the fifth inning to take a 1-0 lead. Noelle Micka’s sacrifice fly plated pinch-runner Kortnee Wiley as the Pack seemingly took control of the tight game.
But Holverson’s lone mistake gave Northwestern life as Kelly Dyer hit a solo home run in the top of the sixth inning to tie the game at 1.
Neither team scored through the seventh inning and the international tie-breaker rule started in the eighth inning as each team began its inning at the plate with a runner on second base.
There were close calls, clutch strikeouts and tremendous defensive plays throughout the extra frames. Other than Starr’s game-winner, no play was bigger than the one Sam Bias made in the top of the ninth inning.
Northwestern had the bases loaded with one out when the Wildcats tried a squeeze play with speedy leadoff hitter Robin Thompson at third base. Bias charged the play and scooped the ball with her glove hand to catcher Noelle Micka to force Thompson and Nevada would later get out of the inning.
“I am proud of the way our team fought throughout the game and found a way to get it done,” Meuchel said.
In the first game of the day, Nevada topped Cal State Fullerton 9-3. Danielle Patrick and Britton Murdock each homered to give first-year coach Matt Meuchel his first victory as the Wolf Pack’s coach and make a winner of freshman Mallary Darby in her first collegiate start.
After two hitless frames, Patrick got Nevada on the board with a leadoff homer in the third inning. Noelle Micka singled and Kym Silagyi then doubled to set up RBI opportunities for Kelsey Starr (ground-rule double) and Murdock (infield single) as Nevada took a 3-0 lead.
The Wolf Pack made it 7-0 with a four-run fourth inning. Brittany Puzey slammed a two-run single in the frame and then she scored when Murdock blasted a shot to left-center.
Darby, the Spanish Springs High School product, was perfect at that point. She gave up a run in the fourth and two more in the sixth but was impressive in her first career start at the college level. She went the distance and gave up six hits while walking one and striking out seven.
Five Pack hitters – Micka, Silagyi, Murdock, Sarah Hunt and Patrick – each recorded two hits in the game. Murdock drove in three runs while Patrick and Puzey each had two RBI.
NOTES: Nevada is now 1-0 all-time against Cal State Bakersfield … The series between Nevada and Northwestern is now tied at 1 … Meuchel is 2-0 as Nevada’s head coach … Nevada will take on No. 7 Arizona and Wichita State on Saturday.