Niwot’s Halie Artzer, left, is welcomed home by Rosie VandeHoef against Thompson Valley on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2011.

NIWOT — The Niwot softball team’s offense struggled to get anything going against Thompson Valley on Thursday. It’s a good thing Niwot had Nickie Blue starting on the mound.

Blue (7-3) pitched a two-hit shutout to pull the Cougars to a 1-0 win over the Eagles.

The Cougars junior struck out 15 batters, including the first three in the game and eight in a row in the middle innings. Between her pitching and defense, she had a hand in 18 of the Cougars’ 21 outs in the game.

“The game plan today was to stay focused,” Blue said. “Yesterday’s practice was really good, so I had a good feeling coming into the game.”

Blue also had the Cougars’ only extra-base hit, a double in the sixth inning. But, she was called out on a questionable call at home trying to score on Mikalah Artzer’s ensuing single.

Frustrated at the bad call, Blue started out shaky in the seventh. After two quick outs, she hit the next two batters and threw a wild pitch that advanced them to second and third.

“I’ll admit, I was frustrated,” Blue said. “I don’t hit a lot of people. That was my fault for letting those two get on base. I lost sight of our game plan of just throwing strikes and depending on our defense.”

After the barrage of errant pitches, Cougars catcher Taylor Supino went out to calm Blue down. The pair then returned to their spots and struck out Shaelyn Coffelt to end the game.

Blue’s late-inning frustration wouldn’t have been necessary if the Cougars had been able to put up a few insurance runs. Their only run came in the third inning when second baseman Raven Baca put down a sacrifice bunt and busted down the line, forcing and errant throw that allowed Halie Artzer to score from first.

“I had to do whatever I had to do to make sure I got it down,” Baca said. “Even though it was a sacrifice, I got on base and it helped out our team a lot and kind of pumped us up. I was definitely hustling and making them worry. Making them make the error was definitely a plus.”

The Cougars also were bitten by a bad call at home in the fifth when Supino appeared to score on a wild pitch but was called out. Despite having runs taken off the board while they were already struggling offensively, head coach Bobby Matthews was proud of his players keeping their composure.

“Come the postseason, those are the kind of games you’re gonna have to deal with,” Matthews said. “We’re trying to win a conference title here and we gotta win to do it. Focus was better today and it shows our metal toughness that we never got frazzled. Even when Nickie hit the two girls in the last inning, you never saw us waiver.”

Matthews said the Cougars’ 6-5 loss to Mountain View (8-6, 4-5) on Tuesday showed them they need to stay focused for every game.

It was a good time for the Cougars to gut out a tough win, as the Eagles trailed them by a half-game in the 4A Northern Conference standings entering Thursday’s game. The Cougars trail league-leading Broomfield by a half game.

Brad Cochi can be reached at bcochi@times-call.com.

NIWOT 1, THOMPSON VALLEY 0

At Niwot H.S.

Thompson Valley (8-6, 6-3) 000 000 0 — 0 2 1

Niwot (11-4, 8-2) 001 000 x — 0 5 0

W — Blue (7-3). L — Mason (5-2)

Thompson Valley hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Thollot 3-0-1-0, Mattson 3-0-0-0, Delaney 3-0-0-0, Rohrbouck 3-0-1-0, Mason 2-0-0-0, Slade 0-0-0-0, Peterson 1-0-0-0, Coffelt 3-0-0-0, Khanzada 2-0-0-0, Walker 2-0-0-0. Totals 22-0-2-0. 3B — Thollot.

Niwot hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — McPherson 2-0-0-0, Johnson 3-0-0-0, Blue 3-0-1-0, M. Artzer 3-0-1-0, Eutsler 2-0-0-0, Supino 2-0-1-0, H. Artzer 1-1-1-0, Baca 2-0-1-0, VendeHoef 2-0-0-0. Totals 20-1-5-0. 2B — Blue.

Thompson Valley pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Mason 6-5-1-0-0-3.

Niwot pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Blue 7-2-0-0-0-15.