Prior to Tuesday (April 10) afternoon/evening's doubleheader at Brookside Park vs. Wayne State, Ashland University's softball team hadn't played in 10 days – and had played just eight games since returning from the Florida spring break trip.
So something like a 9-4 deficit late in a game wasn't going to faze the Eagles, as they rallied for a 10-9 Game 1 victory over the Warriors, then took the entire twinbill after a 4-2 victory in Game 2. Ashland is 13-11 overall and 3-3 in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, while Wayne State is 19-14, 4-8.
"Wayne State is always a tough team. They are always going to come in here and compete," said Ashland head coach Emlyn Knerem. "They're never going to give up. They scored early, and every time we scored, they answered.
"The girls are hungry to play. They've been ready to play, and they're ready to get into the grind of the season. They're thriving out here now."
Tuesday marked Ashland's first doubleheader sweep of the Warriors since May 1, 2011, in Detroit, Mich., and the Eagles' first home doubleheader sweep of Wayne State since March 31, 2010.
The start of the first game was an uneven one for the Eagles, as the Warriors scored two unearned runs in the top of the first on a throwing error. Ashland wasted little time getting on the scoreboard as well, plating a run in the bottom of the first on a two-out fielding error.
Wayne State extended its lead back to two runs at 3-1 on an RBI groundout off the bat of Emma Adams in the top of the second. The trading of runs continued in the bottom of the second when freshman right fielder Emma Lawson collected a run-scoring single.
In the top of the third, a leadoff error led to a two-run home run from Hannah McClounie – and a 5-2 Warriors lead. Back and forth the two teams went, as, in the bottom of the third, the Eagles cut their deficit to 5-3 on sophomore catcher Cassie Haight's RBI double.
Wayne State went back on top by three runs in the very next half-inning on an RBI single by Adams, but once again, Ashland had an answer. With two outs in the bottom of the fourth, a Warrior error allowed junior third baseman Paige Summers to score from second base, as she dodged the catcher's tag en route to the plate.
By the time McClounie hit a two-run homer, and Adams drove in another run on a single to left, in the top of the fifth, the Warriors led 9-4.
In the bottom of the sixth, junior left fielder Katie Mitchell drew a two-out, bases-loaded walk to cut the Eagle deficit to 9-5. The next batter, junior center fielder Erika Farst, delivered with a two-run single to make it a 9-7 score.
Continuing the junior run barrage, first baseman Kylie Asmus served a two-run single to right for a 9-9 tie.
After freshman relief pitcher Laney Jones danced out of a second-and-third, one-out situation in the top of the seventh, Haight drove in the game-winning run with a single to center field in the bottom of the seventh.
Said Haight, "My mentality going up there was just hitting the ball hard. I wanted to get a hit. It's definitely very exciting. We feed off each other. We pick each other up."
"I think we're just hungry for wins right now," said Summers, "and hungry to go out there and do that kind of thing. We're just looking forward to playing."
Junior designated player Katie Manahan and Farst each had three of AU's 16 hits, and Asmus, Haight and Farst each drove in two runs. Jones moved to 2-2 after allowing five hits, a run and a walk and striking out one in 2 2/3 innings.
In Game 2, the Eagles scored first. Summers' RBI single gave AU a 1-0 lead after an inning. In the bottom of the third, Summers delivered again with an RBI double for a 2-0 advantage.
Ashley Messina cut the Warrior deficit to 2-1 with an RBI double in the top of the fourth, but a potential tying run in the top of the fifth was cut down at home for the last out of the frame.
In the bottom of the fifth, Ashland added an insurance run on a Warrior fielding error with no outs, then another when Manahan drew a bases-loaded walk.
Wayne State countered with a Kristen Lucas sacrifice fly in the top of the sixth, but a 6-3-5 double play ended any further Warrior threat.
Asmus (3-for-4, three runs scored) and Summers (3-for-3, two RBIs) combined for all of AU's six hits in the nightcap, and junior pitcher Hannah Stroe improved to 4-5 with a complete-game six-hitter, allowing two hits (one earned) and two walks while striking out three.
"This team's got a lot of potential," Summers said, "and I think we're just young and growing. This is a good start."
Despite the troubles getting on the field this spring, Ashland seems to like playing in colder weather – the Eagles are 10-4 in games in the Midwest, and were 3-7 in Florida.
"We must be a cold-weather team," Knerem said.
UP NEXT: Another Brookside Park GLIAC twinbill on Thursday (April 12) at 4 p.m. vs. Davenport (21-14, 6-8) – the continuation of a stretch of 14 doubleheaders scheduled from April 10-29.
"Our team's ready to be out here," Haight said.