Pitching, Defense On the Money For Eagles in Sweep of LEC

College students sit through plenty of finance and business classes that address budgeting.

            The focus of those discussions is how to budget money.   Where does one go to receive instruction on budgeting runs?

            On Wednesday (Apr. 27) at Brookside Park, the Ashland University softball team unloaded for 13 runs and 17 hits in the first game of a doubleheader with Lake Erie, beating the Storm, 13-1 in five innings. The second game was a different story.  The Eagles' check didn't bounce, but their opportunity to sweep a doubleheader nearly did as Ashland managed only a run and four hits in a 1-0 triumph.

            The Eagles are 27-11, 19-3 in the GLIAC and have a five-game winning streak. They are ranked ninth in the NCAA Division II regional rankings which were released Wednesday. A loss to a Lake Erie team that is 9-33 and 1-23 in conference play might not have left the Eagles overdrawn, but it could have made them withdrawn as far as their postseason chances were concerned.

            AU had two constants on this day - defense and pitcher Emlyn Knerem (Brunswick, Ohio). The Eagles (ranked fourth in the nation in fielding percentage) did not commit an error in the doubleheader and Knerem earned both victories, running her record to 21-4.  Knerem is now two wins shy of her season high for wins – 23, in 2010.

            In Wednesday's first game, the Eagles removed all mystery from the game by scoring three times in the first inning and five times in the second.  AU lashed out six extra-base hits.  Senior designated player Logan Hursey (Zanesville, Ohio/John Glenn) was 3-for-3 with her ninth homer of the season and three RBI.  Third baseman Alyssa Kelley (Mentor, Ohio) was 3-for-4 with two runs scored, three RBI and her eighth double of the season.  Outfielders Lyndsey Brandt (Painesville, Ohio/Riverside) and Erica Miller (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) had two hits each.

            Knerem pitched the first four innings and allowed a run on three hits.  Most of Lake Erie's offense came from third baseman Brittany Sostre, who was 2-for-3 with a double and her fifth homer of the season.  Knerem did not walk a batter and struck out two. Freshman Carly Clark (Strasburg, Ohio) pitched the fifth inning.

            The way the second game began, it looked like AU would win with plenty of runs to spare. Brandt led off, and reached on an infield error, racing all the way around to third base on the play. Shortstop Bri Woody (Cleveland, Ohio/Magnificat) scored Brandt with a fly ball to left and Kelly followed with a double to left field. 

            That's when the Eagles hit the wall. LEC pitcher Sara Shields escaped the first by striking out Hursey and getting second baseman Cayla Seidler (Massillon, Ohio/Washington) on fly ball to left.  Ashland did not score again.  Shields worked just one, one-two-three inning, but she never lost her poise with runners on base. Ashland ended up stranding seven runners.  Shields (5-14) went the distance allowing that lone run on four hits. She walked two and struck out two and threw 95 pitches.

            The longer the game went on, the more trouble the Eagles encountered.  In the sixth inning, the Storm loaded the bases with one out and sent Sostre to the plate.  The LEC third baseman hit a line drive to right field.  Miller got a great jump on the ball, caught it in stride and had the presence of mind to fire to first base and double off Lindsey Pennell. That ended LEC's biggest threat of the game.

            However, the seventh inning was no breeze for Knerem. The first batter, catcher Ali Heming, hit the ball hard and long to dead center field.  Brandt sprinted back and reeled in the ball to douse that threat. Knerem retired the next two hitters to finish up a five-hitter. She did not walk a batter and struck out five. 

            Wednesday's two wins give the Eagles a sweep of the four-game season series with LEC. Now, AU must prepare for one of the biggest weekends of the year.  On Friday (Apr. 29) and Saturday (Apr. 30), the Eagles play doubleheaders at Tiffin. The Dragons are ranked third in the region and are 29-12, 20-6 in the GLIAC.