Danni Ryan’s walk-off home run lifts ISU softball to extra-innings win over Weber State
POCATELLO — Danni Ryan pumped her right fist across her body as she approached second base.
Ryan continued her trot around the diamond, reaching third base as her teammates surrounded home plate, anxiously awaiting her arrival. The Bengals’ designated hitter was mobbed at the plate, signaling the end of ISU’s 7-4 comeback win Saturday at Miller Ranch Stadium.
Ryan connected on a pitch from Weber State’s Kate Donaldson in the bottom of the ninth inning, sending the ball over the left-field fence and giving the Bengals a win. The victory snapped a five-game losing streak and is ISU’s first victory over Weber State since April 2016.
@ISUBengals softball beats Weber State 7-4 on walk-off home run from Danni Ryan in the bottom of the 9th inning. Bengals hand Weber its first conference loss. pic.twitter.com/CtUKVBl76L — Michael Guise (@Michael_Guise) April 13, 2019
“This win was a big step for us, especially playing against our rivals,” Ryan said. “This was a huge win. ... We can always turn it around.”
Ryan’s heroics snapped an 0-for-18 skid at the plate that spanned seven games. Ryan was 0 for 4 against Weber State (17-18, 9-1 Big Sky Conference) on Saturday before hitting her first home run of the season.
“I kind of felt jammed, not going to lie,” Ryan said of her final swing. “It felt unbelievable. I think my heart stopped. I couldn’t breathe. It was awesome. I really needed that.”
ISU (15-22, 5-6 Big Sky) scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game 4-4 and send the game to extras. The Bengals’ rally started with an RBI single from Billie Jean Wells, scoring Shayna Dahlen, who doubled to start the frame.
MaKenzie VanSickle brought the Bengals within 4-3 on an RBI single, scoring Wells. Haley Harrison tied the game in the next at-bat on an RBI double, scoring Jayden DeMoss.
“We got somebody on and showed grit,” ISU coach Candi Letts said. “It disappeared in the last five games. We lost it. We don’t know where it went. We found the grit. It came back home, and we took advantage of nice hits. You saw the confidence rise.”
The Bengals finished the seventh inning with five hits after tallying two combined hits in the first six frames. ISU’s offensive awakening coincided with a strong relief appearance from Autumn Pease.
The pitcher tossed four innings of three-hit ball after Kelsea Sweeney allowed four runs in five innings. Pease notched four strikeouts and no Wildcat advanced farther than second base while she was in the circle.
Coming into Saturday’s game, the Bengals had a team ERA of 4.21 against Big Sky opponents, third-best in the seven-team conference.
“When our bats went away, it made our margin of error for pitchers smaller,” Letts said. “They had to almost throw perfect to win. ... Now our hitting and pitching can enjoy each other.”
During Idaho State’s five-game losing streak — including a pair of home losses Friday to Weber State — the Bengals were outscored 32-7. The team’s bats went silent during the skid, predominantly in the last four games when the Bengals tallied 14 combined hits.
The Bengals’ complete outing Saturday has the squad in fourth place in the conference standings, tied with Northern Colorado, which swept the Bengals in a three-game series April 5-6.
“We know we struggled badly the last five games,” Letts said. “Now, the sky opened up and it’s bright. They got through a dark period. Now I look for us to be tough to beat.”
Idaho State hosts Boise State on Tuesday at Miller Ranch Stadium.