RIVERSIDE – Senior righthander Sierra Hyland (above) kept UC Riverside hitless for seven and one-third innings Saturday afternoon and the Cal Poly softball program pushed across two runs in the top of the eighth inning to close its 53-game regular season schedule with a 2-0 victory versus UC Riverside. The Mustangs, however, settled for a split as – despite a two-hitter from junior righthander Lindsey Chalmers – the Mustangs dropped a 2-0 decision during game No. 1.
Cal Poly (34-19, 10-11) finished the regular season with the program's highest win total since the 2009 Mustangs went 41-12.
Having accepted an invitation for the inaugural National Invitational Softball Championship, Cal Poly will find out where it opens the May 16-18, double-elimination, six-team regional round when the 48-team postseason field is announced at 8 p.m. on Sunday, May 14. The NISC regional winners advance to the May 21-24, double-elimination championship round.
All NISC games will be played at host school sites.
During Saturday's second game, Hyland (21-12) faced just five hitters over the minimum. UC Riverside (28-24, 10-11) advanced only two baserunners into scoring position and the first wasn't until the bottom half of the sixth, when right fielder Maddy Richard drew a one-out walk and reached second through a ground out.
Cal Poly was kept to three hits by UC Riverside starting righthander Taylor Misfeldt (12-7) through the first five innings. However, junior third baseman Stephanie Heyward led off the sixth with a base hit before Hyland singled two spots later. Freshman first baseman Hailey Martin followed by drawing a four-pitch walk to load the bases, but Heyward was thrown out at home on a grounder by senior left fielder Courtney Tyler before junior first baseman Megan Nordin grounded out herself to end the threat.
The Mustangs nevertheless broke through with the decisive runs in the top of the eighth inning. Heyward drew a leadoff walk and after Misfeldt delivered a first-pitch ball to junior shortstop Chelsea Convissar, UC Riverside catcher Jenae Lockwood attempted to pick off Heyward at first. The throw bounced off of Heyward and out of play. With Heyward having moved to third, Convissar lined Misfeldt's next pitch into right center for a triple. Hyland followed with a single up the middle to double Cal Poly's lead.
Taking a no-hitter into extra innings for the first time during her career, Hyland forced a ground out from Highlander left fielder Stephanie Tickemeyer to open the bottom of the eighth. Richard, however, singled to break up Hyland's potential fourth career no-hitter.
Hyland, who struck out four, retired the remaining two Highlanders to cement her 35th career shutout.
During Saturday's opening game, the first four outs Chalmers recorded came via strikeout. UC Riverside's lone hit through the opening four innings was a one-out single from Richard in the bottom of the first and, following that, Chalmers retired 12 of the next 13 Highlanders faced.
With one out in the bottom of the fifth, however, Chalmers walked successive Highlanders – the first time UC Riverside enjoyed a runner in scoring position. Tickemeyer then slapped a grounder to Mustang second baseman Ashley Tornio, who stepped on second for out No. 2 before overthrowing Martin at first base attempting to complete the double play. The error allowed Highlander second baseman Haley Harris to score and center fielder Jenna Curtan followed with a run-scoring hit to place UC Riverside up 2-0.
Offensively, Cal Poly outhit UC Riverside 4-2, but only advanced two runners into scoring position and none past second. In the top of the first, juniors Amanda Sandoval and Heyward strung together successive one-out hits, but UC Riverside starting righthander Haley Marschall forced a flyout from senior designated player Sierra Hyland and a groundout from senior left fielder Courtney Tyler. Martin led off the second with a double, but was cut down going to third on a fielder's choice by sophomore right fielder Crimson Kaiser.