Ashland University's softball team had played in just three one-run games in 2016 prior to Friday (March 25) afternoon's home and Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference openers against Grand Valley State.
The Eagles rallied for a one-run win, 6-5, in Game 1 against the Lakers on Friday, then nearly turned the trick again in a 4-3 loss in Game 2 at Brookside Park.
"We've been working hard to get ready for GLIAC play," said Ashland head coach Sheilah Gulas. "This week has been probably our best week of practice that we've had since the fall. It showed today."
Ashland is 10-11 overall and 1-1 in the GLIAC, while GVSU is 16-4, 1-1.
Game 1 saw the Eagles fall into a 4-0 hole after a half-inning. AU began the comeback with a single run in the bottom of the third on an RBI double by senior pitcher Sarah Alley, who kept the Lakers at bay to allow the rally to occur.
Then, in the bottom of the fifth, Alley singled for another RBI, and junior shortstop Alexis Van Horn followed with an RBI single of her own to cut the deficit to 4-3.
Alley completed the comeback with a two-run single to put Ashland ahead, 5-4. Junior second baseman Kalene Freshour added a key RBI groundout, because GVSU scored a run in the top of the seventh for the final margin of victory.
Alley was a dual threat for the Eagles, going 3-for-4 with a double and four RBIs at the plate and improving to 4-3 in the pitcher's circle with a seven-hitter and two strikeouts.
In the nightcap, the Eagles spotted the Lakers three first-inning runs. It became a 4-0 game after four innings before Ashland started on the comeback trail again.
Van Horn's sacrifice fly got AU on the board in the top of the fifth. Then, in the sixth, Alley drove in a run with a single, and Ashland's third run of the game came home on an errant Laker throw.
Ashland, however, couldn't finish that comeback, and went down 1-2-3 in the seventh.
Farrah was 2-for-4 at the plate, and freshman pitcher Hannah Stroe had her best game as a collegian, allowing a run in six innings of relief.
Ashland's defense stood tall on Friday, making just one error in the twinbill despite less-than-ideal field conditions.
"Grand Valley hit the ball. They put the ball in play a lot," Gulas said. "We were able to run it down and make plays."
The Eagles have gone 4-2 in their last six games after a four-game losing streak in Florida.
Ashland will continue its scheduled run of eight straight home games with a doubleheader at Brookside Park against Ferris State (17-9, 2-0) on Saturday (March 26) at noon.
"If we can go after Ferris with that same kind of effort by everybody, the team's definitely settling in," said Gulas. "Now, we just need to take that and run with that confidence."