RIVERSIDE – Senior third baseman Noa Yakir and freshman designated player Lily Amos (above) each hit their first career home runs on Saturday afternoon as the Cal Poly softball program opened its 23rd Big West Conference season and a doubleheader versus UC Riverside with a 4-1 triumph. Cal Poly, however, dropped game No. 2 after two third-inning errors contributed to all of UC Riverside's runs in a 3-2 decision.
During Saturday's Big West Conference opener versus UC Riverside (18-13, 1-1) – in which the Mustangs snapped a 13-game Highlanders winning streak – Cal Poly (7-25, 1-1) required just seven pitches to take the early lead as Yakir sailed her first career home run over the left field wall.
Following a 25-minute delay due to a bee swarm that descended on the infield, UC Riverside took back Cal Poly's opening run at the first opportunity as Highlanders leadoff batter Emma Ramelot sent the second pitch she saw over the left field wall to tie the game.
Cal Poly, however, required just another half-inning to regain its advantage as freshman shortstop Maddie Amos followed a one-out double from sister Lily Amos with a run-scoring hit to right center field.
Two innings later, Cal Poly increased its lead to 4-1 as Lily Amos cracked her first career homer over the left center field wall.
Twice staked to the lead, Cal Poly starting sophomore rightahnder Dakota Casper (1-3) allowed solitary hits to UC Riverside in the second, third and fourth innings before retiring the Highlanders in order to close the fifth, sixth and seventh.
Casper, who closed the game by retiring 11 successive hitters, struck out three without conceding a walk.
During Saturday's second game versus UC Riverside, Cal Poly starting junior righthander Steffi Best struck out back-to-back Highlanders hitters to close the first inning before retiring the side in order to complete the second.
In the bottom of the third, however, Best conceded a leadoff hit to UC Riverside left fielder Nadia Witt. After Witt stole second, Highlanders right fielder Danielle Ortega grounded a pitch back to Best, who sailed the putout attempt over the head of Mustang first baseman Hailey Martin. Witt scored and Ortega later reached home plate after a pickoff attempt skipped off Yakir's glove at third. UC Riverside completed the three-run effort as starting righthander Melanie Olmos brought home second baseman Brittany Garcia with a sacrifice fly.
Offensively, Cal Poly saw its first seven hitters retired in order until senior left fielder Sydney James singled with one down in the third. Cal Poly's best opportunity to break through versus Olmos came an inning later as Martin drew a two-out walk before senior right fielder Crimson Kaiser singled. Olmos, however, produced a fly out from Lily Amos to end the threat.
Cal Poly collected just one hit between the fifth and sixth innings before closing the gap late with a two-run seventh. Kaiser opened the top of the inning by drawing a five-pitch walk before moving to second after Ramelot mishandled a grounder from Maddie Amos at third base. Junior pinch hitter Shelby Jeffries then lined a two-run double to right center to trim Cal Poly's deficit to 3-2.
UC Riverside reliever Jacy Boles, however, entered the circle and forced a fly out from freshman pinch hitter Kianah Corey before striking out Yakir to end the game.
Cal Poly and UC Riverside close the three-game series with a 1 p.m. matchup on Sunday, March 31.