The No.3-ranked softball team closed out their regular season Saturday with a doubleheader against the LaGrange College (Ga.) Panthers. After a tough 4-2 loss in the first game, the Eagles recovered to deliver a dominating pitching effort and an offensive explosion in the second game, winning 10-2 and ending their season with a 39-3 record.
“LaGrange is the kind of team we will face in regionals, and this shows that we have to step up and work that much harder in practice,” junior second baseman Claire Bailey said. “It was not great to end the season splitting the doubleheader, but it was a good wake-up call to motivate us to work harder in practice for regionals.”
The Eagles connected for their only three hits of the first game in the top of the first inning, scoring their only two runs of the game in the process.
The Panthers scored one run in the third inning to bring the score to 2-1, then scored three runs in the sixth inning.
The score now stood at 4-2, and the Panthers never relinquished their lead.
“Based on their record this season and our games against them in previous years, we took for granted that we would beat them,” Bailey said. “We got complacent and were on our heels the whole time.”
In the second game, the Eagles’ bats erupted, connecting for eight extra-base hits in a 10-run outburst.
“Our heads were in the game, and we did not let up,” Bailey said. “We kept pushing and kept the pressure on. We stayed aggressive.”
They were led by senior third baseman Meaghan Schultz, who went two-for-three with three RBIs, including a home run in the seventh inning.
“I admire the way that Meaghan bounces back and does not let a bad game get to her,” Bailey said. “She had a rough first game, but she came back in the second game with a clean slate. She made the adjustments that she had to, and it showed.”
Junior right fielder Ally Kersthold and sophomore catcher Micah Scharff also anchored the Eagles’ offensive attack, both delivering two hits and two RBIs.
On the mound, freshman right-handed pitcher Sydney Carpenter and junior right-handed pitcher Lena Brottman combined for a two-hitter.
Carpenter started the game for the Eagles, and with the win, she improved her pitching win-loss record to 7-0 on the year. Brottman earned the save, throwing three and a third innings of relief.
“It is comforting to us as hitters and as a defense to have that strong pitching staff behind us,” Bailey said. “The depth of our pitching staff will carry us through regionals.”
The Eagles took an early lead, scoring a run in the first inning. With one out, freshman designated hitter Courtney Sugihara doubled, and one out later, junior first baseman Megan Light hit another double to drive her in.
The Eagles took control of the game in the fourth inning, scoring four runs and bringing the score to 5-0.
With two outs, Light stood third base after a single, a sacrifice bunt and a passed ball, and Gorodetsky stood on first after being hit by a pitch.
Schultz then doubled, driving in both of them.
Next up was sophomore shortstop Brianna Berceau, who singled. A double off the bat of Kersthold drove in both of them.
The Panthers managed to score two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to bring the score to 5-2.
However, the Eagles extended their lead in the fifth inning, scoring another run and making the count 6-2.
Scharff led off the inning with a double, and then scored when freshman left fielder Alyssa Pollard hit another double.
The Eagles put the game away for good in the sixth inning with a three run outburst that brought the score to 9-2.
Schultz, sophomore shortstop Moira Sullivan and Sugihara loaded the bases with a hit-by-pitch and two walks.
Scharff then cleared the bases with a double, the Eagles’ only hit of the inning.
The Eagles tacked on a final insurance run in the seventh inning. Schultz delivered a solo home run to center field, her third of the season.
The Eagles will find out on May 6 who and where they will be playing in the NCAA Tournament.
“Our goal is to win the second game of regionals, which we have lost in the past two years,” Bailey said. “We are not just playing to play – we expect to win, and we want to advance to the World Series. That is our goal, but we are taking it one game at a time and trying not to look too far ahead.”
– By Bennett Ostdiek