Based on what she saw Friday, Cal Poly softball head coach Jenny Condon had a hunch that freshman first baseman Melissa Pura would do something special with the bases loaded Saturday.
Pura did just that, crushing a grand slam over the center-field wall with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning. The towering blast carried the Mustangs to an 11-2 Big West Conference win over visiting Cal State Northridge at waterlogged Bob Janssen Field.
“I actually had a feeling (Pura) was going to get at least a good piece of the ball,” Condon said. “She swung the bat well all weekend and picked some good pitches to swing at. She’s been really comfortable and relaxed. Her swing has been so good and she just drilled it.”
Pura was 2-for-3 with six RBIs Saturday. She was 5-for-9 with 10 RBIs, four doubles, two home runs, two walks and scored five runs over the weekend.
“I’ve been feeling really relaxed this weekend and really confident,” Pura said. “I was just thinking base hit all the way. The pitcher (Sam Schroeder) was a little wild before. I was just looking for her to bring anything in the strike zone and she brought it right there. It was perfect.”
Cal Poly (19-19, 6-3 Big West) completed a three-game series sweep and has won 13 of its last 18 overall.
The Mustangs played their first 21 games this season away from home.
Saturday’s run-rule win did not come without controversy.
Moments before Pura’s grand slam, Cal State Northridge head coach Barbara Jordan filed a protest that argued Cal Poly’s Chelsea Green illegally moved backward in reaching first base on a fielder’s choice.
“(Green) backed up and you’re not allowed to change directions,” said Jordan, who did not know when the game would be reviewed.
Condon said she did not notice Green, who was 1-for-2 and scored two runs, move backward.
“If you step backward from home to first then it’s an out automatically,” Condon said. “But the (home plate) umpire (Dan Duclose) ruled that she stepped out of the way to avoid interfering with the throw home so that’s OK. It’s just a different interpretation of the rule.”
Condon said Jordan “had every right to protest if it’s what they saw.”
“I really doubt that (the umpires) will change it,” Condon said. “They feel confident with their call.”
The Matadors (12-16, 1-6), who have lost six straight and nine of 10, were outhit 8-6 and left five runners on base.
Cal Poly freshman starter Jenna Maiden (6-7) earned the win. She allowed two runs (one earned) on six hits, walked two and struck out two in four frames.
“I think Jenna’s doing a great job,” Condon said. “She had a little injury in the fall and has really come on strong. She’s been so impressive for us stepping into that role just like Robyn (Kontra) did last year and Emily (Hively) did two years ago.”
The Mustangs, who won 8-6 in both games Friday, hit five of their six doubles Saturday in the first two innings. Cal Poly junior center fielder Lisa Modglin was 2-for-3 with two doubles and scored twice.
“We’ve been working hard all year and we’re finally seeing the payoffs,” Condon said. “It’s great for our program and our kids.”
The Mustangs host UC Davis for a doubleheader at 4 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s going to be a great (three-game) series,” Condon said. “They’re similar to Northridge. We need to come out like we did this weekend. Hopefully there won’t be any rain. I think that has affected our pitching a little bit.”
Pura said Cal Poly has surged over the last six weeks because of a renewed focus on fundamentals.
“We’ve been stressing the little things instead of the overall picture,” she said. “We’re going back to the basics and we’ve come together as a team. I expect us to win each inning one at a time.”