INDIANAPOLIS - You may not get a second chance to make a first impression, but you can get a second chance to make a lasting impression. That's what the AU softball team accomplished on Saturday (May 11) in an elimination game against Lewis at the NCAA regional softball tournament.
On Friday, AU lost to the Flyers, 5-0 and were timid offensively, managing only two hits. Saturday, with their season on the line, the Eagles banged out two homers and nine hits in a 7-0 triumph over the Flyers.
"They really didn't see our team the day before," said AU head coach Sheilah Gulas.
Ashland is 29-18 and on Sunday, must beat Indianapolis twice to keep its season alive. Indianapolis is the nation's top-ranked team and is 2-0 in this tournament.
Against Lewis (31-18), the fourth seed in the region on Saturday, the fifth-seeded Eagles picked up where they left off earlier in the day against Wayne State. In the bottom of the first inning, third baseman Jerrica Young (Loudonville, Ohio) led off with a home run to left field. In the third inning, with two outs and runners on first and second, Lewis elected to intentionally walk center fielder Taylor Menhart (Twinsburg, Ohio) to face first baseman Franki Gironda (Akron, Ohio/Hoban).
In what will be remembered as one of the biggest at bats of the season, the right-hand hitting Gironda slapped a 2-2 pitch into right field for a two-run single. On the pitch before that Lewis pitcher Ali Bremis, just missed off the corner.
"That was huge," said Gulas. "Those two RBI were clutch."
Gironda hit fourth most of the season, but she was hitting sixth against Lewis. In Saturday's first game against Wayne State, she had 2-for-2.
Another turning point came in the bottom of the fifth inning. Right fielder Kourtney Yarnall (Canton, Ohio/Perry) was leading off and facing Kelly Bowler, who was called in from the bullpen. Bowler is the pitcher who shut down the Eagles on Friday. Yarnall yanked the ball down the left-field line for a home run and a 4-0 lead.
"That was big because that was the girl who had beaten us yesterday," reminded Gulas. "When she hit that, it was like, 'We can do this.' I also thought we'd really have to do some damage to mess up a four-run lead."
That wasn't going to happen in this game because sophomore Amber McDermott (Creston, Ohio/Norwayne) was pitching one of her best games of the year. She went six innings and allowed four hits. McDermott wasn't overpowering, she walked three and didn't have a strikeout, but she was on the plate all afternoon. McDermott threw 48 of her 80 pitches for strikes. This was her second win of the day and she's 13-6.
"She battled well today," noted Gulas. "There were times they had runners in scoring position and didn't get anything. She did a great job of mixing it up and using the changeup in certain spots. She worked ahead. Tawna (Garver) did an exceptional job calling the game and reading the batters."
Lewis stranded eight runners. The Flyers had runners at second and third with two outs in the third and runners at first and second with no one out in the sixth. Each time, McDermott escaped without allowing a run.
The Eagles added three insurance runs in the sixth inning. Young doubled to plate one run and Yarnall added a two-run single. Yarnall was 2-for-4 with three RBI and Young was 2-for-2 with three runs and two RBI. Second baseman Cayla Seidler (Massillon, Ohio/Massillon Washington) was 2-for-3 and scored twice.
McKenna Galloway (Brunswick, Ohio) pitched the final inning for AU.
The loss went to Brems (13-9), who was charged with three runs on five hits in four innings. Bowler gave up four runs on four hits in two innings.
AU now gets as solid a team as there is playing in this tournament. The Eagles and Greyhounds have not played this season.
"We need to make defensive plays," said Gulas of playing Indianapolis. "We need to be steady. We need to keep it a close game and find a way."