Updated: March 30, 2014 at 7:38 pm
Senior Jessica Belsterling showed why she is arguably the best all-around player on a strong Colorado-Colorado Springs softball team.
Belsterling, one of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference's better pitchers, uncharacteristically gave up seven runs to visiting Colorado Christian in the top of the first for a 7-0 Cougars lead.
It didn't take long for her to make up for it. In the bottom of the second, last week's league offensive honoree took four of those runs back with one sweet swing.
The senior from Glendale, Ariz. clubbed the third grand slam of the day by the Mountain Lions (17-9, 13-6 RMAC) to spark a rally in an eventual 16-8 Game 2 win that closed out the Sunday doubleheader and a four-game weekend sweep of the Cougars (10-19, 6-12).
"I needed to forget about that first inning," she said. "When I'm struggling on the mound, I need to do the best I can for my team at the plate."
Her best is darn good. After this weekend, Belsterling (7-2) is second on the team in pitching with a 4.32 earned run average behind Game 1 winner Korey Kulpins (8-4, 3.95) and leads the Mountain Lions with 33 RBIs. Her .419 batting average trails only senior Jourdan Hitchings (.424), who took over the team lead with a six-for-eight performance Sunday.
"All of the seniors are playing very well and Jessica is one of them," UCCS coach Scott Peterson said. "She's big, imposing and has a presence on the mound. Today (Sunday) was unusual but she bounced right back when we needed the big hit."
"(Belsterling) can crush the ball," said freshman Nikki Hoffman, who relieved Belsterling and allowed only one run to give her team a chance to rally. "She can forget about the previous play and focus on what needs to be done at that moment. She's mentally sharp."
Hoffman and Hitchings both hit grand slams in the second inning of a 16-5 Game 1 victory.
With four wins over CCU at the Four Diamonds Sports Complex, the Mountain Lions have won seven straight and are 13-1, including one nonconference contest, since March 15 when they were 4-8 (2-5 RMAC). Now, UCCS is in the hunt for the NCAA Division II conference championship with games against league contenders Metro State and Colorado State-Pueblo coming up.
Liberty High School graduate Emily Jennings also came up big in Game 2. She tied the game with a solo homer an at-bat after Belsterling's four-run knock. UCCS scored another eight runs in the third thanks to a three-RBI double by Jennings.
In the sixth, Belsterling scored the Game 2 win-clinching run when Jennings stroked an RBI single to end the game under the college eight-run mercy rule.