That theory that is often referred to about pitchers being ahead of the hitters in the early part of the softball season? On Saturday (Mar. 26) at Brookside Park, it got banged around like a hanging changeup.
Saturday, the softball teams from Ashland and Grand Valley State hit like they were in a mid-summer slow-pitch softball extravaganza. The first game, which featured 20 hits and nine extra-base knocks, went to the Lakers, 8-6. In the second game, AU scored five runs in the top of the seventh and then got the final out in the bottom of the inning with the bases loaded for a 6-5 victory. That game featured 17 hits and three homers.
With the split, AU is 11-9 and 3-1 in GLIAC play. Grand Valley State is 17-4 and 3-1.
The Lakers came to town with the reputation of being one of the league's best hitting teams. That fact was demonstrated in the first game when the Lakers got to AU ace Emlyn Knerem (Brunswick, Ohio) for eight runs on 10 hits. Knerem walked two and struck out 11 and she was perfect through the first three innings. But in the fourth inning, GVSU got five runs on five hits. The inning featured two doubles and a two-run homer by Briauna Taylor, who was hitting seventh in this power-packed lineup. This was Taylor's first home run of the season.
Knerem (9-3) didn't have much time to collect herself. After finally escaping the fourth inning, the Lakers added two runs in the fifth inning and a single run in the sixth on Miranda Cleary's fifth homer of the season.
Through those middle innings, the Lakers made Knerem work as hard as she has all year. Most every hitter went deep into the count. The junior threw 133 pitches. That came one day after she threw nine innings against Hillsdale.
Andrea Nicholson started for GVSU and lasted four innings, allowing six runs – five earned – on eight hits. The victory went to Hannah Santora (6-1), who went three scoreless innings. Santora allowed two hits, walked two and struck out three.
AU got two RBI apiece from first baseman Logan Hursey (Zanesville, Ohio/John Glenn) and second baseman Cayla Seidler (Massillon, Ohio/Washington). Shortstop Bri Woody (Cleveland, Ohio/Magnificat), who would provide major heroics in the second game, was 3-for-4 and drove in a run. Third baseman Alyssa Kelley (Mentor, Ohio) and center fielder Lyndsey Brandt (Painesville, Ohio/Riverside) had two hits each. Brandt also had the defensive play of the game, going to the collapsible fence in center field and then through it to take a home run away from first baseman Tonya Calkins.
For GVSU, second baseman Kayleigh Bertram and Brittany Taylor both had two hits. Calkins, catcher Carli Raisutis and Briauna Taylor drove in two runs each.
In the second game, the two starting pitchers, Hursey and Katie Martin, dominated the early action. The game was scoreless until the bottom of the fourth inning when Martin led off with a homer. Martin began the weekend with 11 home runs. She also produced GVSU's second run when she drove a 3-2 delivery from Hursey deep over the center field fence with two outs in the fifth inning. Hursey struggled to get off the field after that, she allowed three more runs in the frame, thanks to two walks and a homer by Cleary. By the time the senior retired the side, GVSU led, 5-0.
AU began its comeback in the top of the sixth when Seidler hit a sacrifice fly to left center field to bring home Brandt, who had started the inning with a single. AU could have scored more in this frame if not for a spectacular tumbling catch by center fielder Nellie Kosola on Seidler's sacrifice fly.
Hursey encountered more trouble in the bottom of the sixth. The first two players in the inning reached on a hit and a walk and after Bertram was retired on a foul fly to first, Hursey intentionally walked Martin. AU head coach Sheilah Gulas called upon freshman Carly Clark (Starsburg, Ohio) at that point and the rookie got the next hitters to quell the threat.
That set the stage for a wild seventh inning. It looked like GVSU was cruising to the win. After one out, first baseman Frankie Gironda (Akron, Ohio/Hoban) singled. Left fielder Erica Miller (Indianapolis, Ind. Franklin Central) followed with a single down the left-field line. GVSU lifted Martin from the circle and put the game in the hands of Santora.
Brandt, who is hitting a team-high .436, coaxed a walk from Santora and Kelley followed with a two-run single to right. Hursey, still in the game as the designated player, doubled to right field to score one run and get Kelley to third. After Seidler went out on a fly ball to second base, Woody lined a single up the middle on a 3-2 pitch to bring home two runs and give Ashland a 6-5 lead. Woody finished the game 6-for-8 with three RBI. She's hitting .317.
In the bottom of the inning, the Lakers used a single and two walks to load the bases with two outs. Clark wrapped up the first win of her collegiate career by getting Bertram to bounce out to the circle for the final out of the game.
AU had 11 hits in the second game. The first three hitters in the order – Miller, Brandt and Kelley – combined to go 5-for-11 with four runs scored. Kelley, with her two RBI in the seventh, moved into a tie for the team lead in RBI (15) with Miller.
Ashland wraps up its full weekend on Sunday (Mar. 26, noon) when it hosts Ferris State.