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Taylor Cotton is certainly making the most of her final home weekend.

The Oregon State senior pitcher backed up her one-hit shutout of No. 10 Utah on Friday with an equally impressive two-hitter on Saturday.

The Beavers made sure that effort didn’t go to waste, scoring three times in the sixth to rally for a 3-1 Pac-12 softball victory and a series win over the Utes at the OSU Softball Complex.

In 14 innings against the Utes, Cotton has allowed just three hits and one run to go with 10 walks and three strikeouts.

“She’s just capable of doing that,” coach Laura Berg said. “She gets a lot of swing throughs and pop ups and she can be very effective when she gets ahead of the hitters.”

While Cotton hasn’t been overpowering, Lovie Lopez described Cotton’s two appearances as “phenomenal.”

“She’s out there on fire,” the junior left fielder said. “Just to come out and pitch back-to-back games and hold them to (three) hits … Utah’s a great hitting team so she’s doing a fantastic job just holding it down on the mound for us.”

Cotton has also had the help of her defense, which, for the second straight game, made some nice plays behind her.

And the Beavers have scored enough to pick up a couple wins.

On Saturday, it was a three-run sixth that proved to be the difference.

Down 1-0, Alysha Everett opened the sixth by walking on four pitches and pinch hitter Alyssa Pelegrin also walked with one out.

Kayleen Shafer’s grounder to the shortstop was thrown away at third trying to get pinch runner Riley Gregoire, who was able to score and tie the game.

After a pop up to short, McKenna Arriola walked to load the bases.

Shelby Weeks hit a shot to the shortstop that bounced off her and into shallow right center allowing Stephanie Merwin, who ran for Pelegrin, and Shafer to score and make it 3-1.

“We don’t need big hits to win games, just little base hits and putting pressure on the defense,” said Lopez, who was 2 for 4 on Saturday after going 2 for 2 with one RBI in Friday’s win.

“The defense is out there leading 1-0 and all the pressure is on them. When we come up with little base hits like that it’s huge.”

Added Berg: “They fought, they found a way. They have kind of taken a page out of baseball’s book. They find ways. That’s all you need. It doesn’t have to look pretty, it doesn’t have to be big hits, it just has to put pressure on the defense.”

Utah’s BreOnna Castaneda gave the Utes their only run of the first two games, and most likely won’t be receiving a Christmas card from Cotton any time soon.

It was Castaneda who on Friday ended Cotton’s no-hit bid with a single with two outs in the seventh.

On Saturday, Castaneda, Utah’s No. 8 batter, did it again. This time the Utes’ designated player broke up Cotton’s no-hitter with a one-out solo homer off the left field foul pole.

Cotton shook off her one mistake quickly.

“It was just like what are you going to do about that one, it hit the foul pole,” Cotton said. “Whatever.”

Saturday’s victory assures the Beavers (27-22, 8-12) of a winning record with four games left and the opportunity to be selected for the NCAA tournament next Sunday.

The Beavers will look to sweep the series with the Utes (32-11, 12-6) at 11 a.m. on Sunday. It will be senior day with Cotton, Natalie Hampton and Sammi Noland being honored prior to the start.

“We’ve got postseason in our eyes and we’re going to fight like hell to get it,” Lopez said. “We came into this series with our backs against the wall basically and we’re out there fighting every day, especially for the seniors. We want to do anything and everything we can for the seniors to send them off on a good season.”

Added Berg: “They know they’re fighting for their lives right now. They’re not backing down.”

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Sports editor of the Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald

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