When Taylor Cotton walked three of the first four batters she faced Friday afternoon, Oregon State coach Laura Berg thought her team might be in for a long day.
But Cotton, the Beavers’ senior lefty, gathered herself and got out of the inning unscathed.
After figuring out home plate umpire Calvin Walker’s strike zone, Cotton was nearly unhittable.
It wasn’t until there were two outs in the seventh that a Utah batter was able to find just enough space to squeeze in a hit.
Still, that couldn’t diminish the excitement of a 5-0 Pac-12 softball victory over the No, 10 Utes at the OSU Softball Complex.
The teams meet again at 1 p.m. Saturday and wrap up the series at 11 a.m. on Sunday.
“To one-hit this team I mean, holy cow,” Berg said of Cotton, who retired 20 of the last 23 batters she faced.
Cotton said she didn’t really notice she had the no-hitter going until just before she allowed the first hit.
Shortstop McKenna Arriola did all she could to try to keep it in tact but BreOnna Castaneda’s bouncer back up the middle just went off her glove for a single.
“I thought it was going to be one of those diving catches and flip to second but she did a hell of a job and McKenna tried to make one hell of a play,” Berg said.
Like the bases-loaded jam in the first, Cotton just shrugged it off.
She then got the final out on a popped up bunt with two runners on to seal the crucial series-opening victory.
“I was like OK, I don’t really care. I just want to win,” Cotton said.
The Beavers (26-22, 7-12) gave Cotton all the run support she would need in the second. Lovie Lopez singled with two outs and Stephanie Merwin walked before Kayleen Shafer delivered a single to right to drive in Lopez for a 1-0 lead.
Oregon State broke the game open in the fifth, sending nine batters to the plate.
Jessica Garcia singled, Arriola walked and Shelby Weeks singled to load the bases.
Sammi Noland struck out but a wild pitch on the third strike allowed Garcia to score and make it 2-0.
After Natalie Hampton struck out for the second out, Alysha Everett delivered a two-run double to make it 4-0.
Everett then scored on a single by Lopez.
“It’s always nice to get insurance runs and so that way Taylor doesn’t have to stress when she’s out there,” Everett said. “It definitely alleviates a lot of the pressure.”
“I’d rather them do that than go 1-2-3 and I have to go immediately out there,” she said. “So if they’re hitting then I’m not going to complain.”
The Beavers finished with 10 hit with Weeks, Everett, Lopez and Garcia each collecting two.
The win was a big step to a possible postseason berth, but the Beavers know they can’t afford to let up.
“We’re in the fight of our life right now, these guys know that and they’re fighting hard,” Berg said. “We just have to come out (Saturday) and do the same thing.”
Added Cotton: “It’s so big because we want to go to postseason and this win meant everything. So now we’re just one game closer to going.”
It was also a nice way to bounce back after a rough patch that saw the Beavers lose four straight Pac-12 games entering Friday’s matchup with the Utes (32-10, 14-5).
“Last weekend was pretty rough for us and the Stanford loss was pretty hard, but to come back and beat Utah like this is really good and gives us that hope,” Everett said. “We knew we were capable of it and we have just proven it to ourselves again.”