Ashland University senior outfielder Erica Miller (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) has experienced plenty of ups and downs during her four years playing college softball at Ashland. It's doubtful, however, that she had experienced anything to rival Thursday (Apr. 7).
Miller was moved from her customary leadoff spot to the sixth spot in the batting order. She had hit first for the Eagles since she arrived on campus. In the sixth inning of Thursday's first game against Findlay, the senior was doubled off of first base on a line drive to right field. That was a downer.
Then in the top of the fourth inning of the second game, with AU nursing a 1-0 lead, Miller, on the 569th at-bat of her career, belted her first collegiate home run, an opposite field, two-run shot over the left field fence to give Ashland a 3-0 lead. In the bottom of the inning, Miller sprinted to the line in right field to make an excellent catch of a line drive off the bat of Kate Streeter. Those are two ups.
As a team, the Eagles experienced a couple of ups, too. AU won both games on Thursday at Brookside Park, 2-1 and 6-3. The Eagles have a seven-game winning streak and have won eight of their last nine games. AU is 17-9, 9-1 in GLIAC action. The Eagles are 4-0 against Findlay this season.
Center fielder Lyndsey Brandt (Painesville, Ohio/Riverside) replaced Miller at the top of the order and shortstop Bri Woody (Cleveland, Ohio/Magnificat) hit second on Thursday. Brandt had been hitting second and Woody was in the sixth slot. Woody had two hits and three RBI against the Oilers (14-11-1/2-8) and Brandt had a hit and two runs scored. Ashland had nine hits in each game.
AU could never rest in the first game. Findlay took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, scoring on a wild pitch. First baseman Calli Coppus had the only hit in the inning, a one-out double. She moved to third base on a fly ball to right field and then scored on the errant pitch.
That was the last run in the game allowed by starter and winner Emlyn Knerem (Brunswick, Ohio). In seven innings, Knerem (12-3), allowed five hits. She walked one and struck out five.
Ashland tied the game, 1-1 on single up the middle by first baseman Frankie Gironda (Akron, Ohio/Hoban) in the fourth inning. That shot scored second baseman Cayla Seidler (Massillon, Ohio/Washington), who had opened the inning with a single. Seidler was 2-for-3 in the first game.
The winning run crossed home plate in the seventh inning. Catcher Tawna Garver (Mansfield, Ohio/Hillsdale) led off with a single and Jenni Goodrich (Phoeniz, Ariz./Pinnacle) took over as a pinch runner. Outfielder Carly West (Ashland, Ohio/Hillsdale), who was 2-for-2, put down a sacrifice bunt to advance Goodrich to second. The Oilers intentionally walked Brandt and Woody ripped a drive to right center to bring in the winning run.
All of that damage came against starter and loser Lauren Orban (2-2).
In the second game, in addition to the Miller homer, third baseman Alyssa Kelley (Mentor, Ohio) was 2-for-4 and hit her second homer of the season. Kelley, who is hitting a team-best .442, has a 15-game hitting streak. Senior Logan Hursey (Zanesville, Ohio/John Glenn) started in the circle in the second game, went 1-for-3 and extended her hitting streak to 10 games. Ashland led, 1-0 after three innings, 2-0 after four and 5-0 heading to the bottom of the sixth inning.
Hursey went 3.1 innings and didn't figure in the decision. The victory went to freshman Carly Clark (Strasburg, Ohio), who is 4-0. She pitched two innings and allowed two runs – one earned – on no hits. Knerem got her first save of the season by pitching the last 1.2 innings. The only hit she allowed was a three-run homer by designated player Brittany Dauterman. Dauterman hit the first pitch Knerem threw over the fence in dead center. Knerem has seven career saves – that's the most in AU history. The three Ashland pitchers allowed a total of three hits. Two of those were by Dauterman.
Alyssa Shultz (3-3) pitched a complete game and took the loss.
This was the last of five consecutive home dates for the Eagles. Ashland will play at Ohio Dominican this weekend (Apr. 9-10). That begins a string of six consecutive road doubleheaders. AU's next home game is Apr. 22, against Wayne State.