RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Junior second baseman Ashley Romano (right) and junior catcher Mariah Cochiolo both matched career highs with three hits apiece, but UC Riverside produced the decisive run with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning as the Cal Poly softball program was edged at Amy S. Harrison Field on Sunday afternoon, 3-2.
Mustang juniors Kim Westlund, Cochiolo and Lauren Moreno opened Sunday afternoon by compiling successive two-out singles during the top of the first, but Cal Poly's inability to push across the game's initial run presented an opportunity for UC Riverside, who took a 1-0 lead in the bottom half of the inning through first baseman Marissa Escalante's two-out base hit up the middle to plate center fielder Kayla White.
UC Riverside (19-30, 3-15) returned in the second inning to double its lead as shortstop Natalie Sanchez drove her third home run of 2013 over the left field wall.
Kickstarted by a leadoff single from Romano, Cal Poly (19-31-1, 8-13) deadlocked the scoreline in the third. After stealing second base, Romano – following a Cochiolo single – notched Cal Poly's opening run by racing around third and sliding under the tag of UC Riverside catcher Alexis Pickett. Two batters later, junior designated player Emily Ceccacci singled through the left side of the infield and Cochiolo also beat the throw home to level the game at 2-2.
Sophomore righthander Jordan Yates (5-14) relieved starting lefthander Chloe Wurst in the circle to open the fourth and retired six of the initial seven Highlanders she faced before UC Riverside found the deciding run in the sixth. After leading off with a five-pitch walk, Escalante reached second through right fielder Dionne Anderson's sacrifice bunt before designated player Ashley Ercolano singled to put Highlanders at the corner bases. Yates recovered to force a pop out from pinch hitter Kaylie Atkinson, but Sanchez dropped a two-out hit in front of Mustang right fielder Cami Brown to plate Escalante for the winning run.
The Mustangs enjoyed one final opportunity to re-knot the scoreline as Romano led off the top of the seventh with her third hit before reaching second through a Westlund sacrifice bunt. Cochiolo followed with another single to move Romano to third, but Moreno flew out and Ceccacci popped out to conclude the game.
Cal Poly, which dropped its first series at UC Riverside since 2003 following a Saturday doubleheader split, enjoys a scheduled bye weekend before completing its 2013 regular season schedule with a three-game May 10-11 series at UC Davis.