On Thursday, Feb. 20, UC Riverside’s softball team (6-9) completed their first day in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic (MNCC) in Cathedral City, Calif. The Highlanders faced off against the University of Mexico (UNM) Lobos (6-7) and the Brigham Young University (BYU) Cougars (7-5). 

In the first game on Thursday, UCR put up a fight but eventually fell short to the Lobos 6-3. Their loss was followed hours later with another tough game against the Cougars where the Highlanders lost 5-2. 

Thursday’s double-header started off as a pitcher’s duel, with both teams going scoreless for the first two innings. At the beginning, UCR and UNM were evenly matched, with each school having two runners left on base in the first inning and no runners left on base during the second inning. UNM broke the tie at the bottom of the third inning when senior shortstop Cameryn O’Grady hit a double that brought freshman infielder Racheal Hathoot across the plate. Their scoring streak continued with an RBI double from junior outfielder Andrea Howard with her and O’Grady scoring to bring the Lobos ahead 3-0.

At the top of the fourth inning, the Highlanders scored their first run of the game. Sophomore outfielder Nadia Witt hit an RBI double to left field which allowed senior catcher Kayla Curtan to score. With two runners on base, it looked like UCR was in position to even the score. However, sophomore outfielder Sami Demyon grounded out to end the inning.

UNM responded to UCR scoring with a run of their own during the bottom of the fourth inning. The Highlanders continued to push back and tallied two runs after a two-run single by Curtan shrunk the lead to one run at 4-3. Despite their efforts, UCR fell further behind when the Lobos scored twice in the sixth to secure the win, 6-3. 

UCR’s Witt finished with two runs and Curtan led the team in RBI with two. Sophomore pitcher Chrys Hildebrand’s record fell to 0-1 after pitching two innings and allowing three runs. For UNM, junior right fielder Taryn Young had two runs and hits. 

In the second game against BYU, the Highlanders got off to a shaky start. Right off the bat, the Cougars’ senior outfielder Rylee Jensen-McFarland scored off an error in the bottom of the first inning. BYU continued to dominate UCR into the third inning after freshman first baseman Huntyr Ava hit a two-run home run to add to the lead.

The Highlanders answered back in the top of the fourth inning when senior pitcher Melanie Olmos scored on a single to center field by freshman shortstop Marissa Burk. At the bottom of the fourth, BYU’s Jensen-McFarland stepped up to bat and hit a two-run home run to sufficiently put the game out of reach. UCR continued their efforts with Witt scoring for the Highlanders during the sixth, but in the end the win went to BYU, 5-2. 

Senior third baseman Emma Ramelot led the team with two hits and one RBI with Olmos contributing two hits as well. Jensen-McFarland and Ava led the Cougars with two runs and two RBIs each.

The Highlander softball team continued to play in the MNCC on Friday, Feb. 21, and Saturday, Feb 22. On Friday, UCR lost consecutively to Mississippi State University Bulldogs (12-3) by a final score of 6-3 and 12-6 against the University of Utah Utes (10-2). On Saturday, UCR finished the tournament with another loss, 8-5, versus the Oregon State University Beavers (9-5). 

The Highlanders are scheduled to play in the Amy S. Harrison Classic where their first match is against the University of Montana Grizzlies (5-7) on Friday, Feb. 28 at 9 a.m., here in Riverside at the Amy S. Harrison softball field.