Kentucky was known as a divided state during the Civil War. Emotions flared in families over which side to support – North or South.
In NCAA Division II college softball, those types of disagreements don't exist when the subject is Northern Kentucky softball. Year in and year out there is no dispute, in Dixie or in the north, NKU is one of the strongest programs in the region. The same thing can be said about Ashland.
On Tuesday (Mar. 22) in Highland Heights, Ky., the teams played a non-conference doubleheader. A year ago, Ashland won two of three from the Norse and the last victory came at AU in the NCAA Division II playoffs. Tuesday, NKU got some revenge, sweeping the Eagles, 4-1 and 5-4. The last game went nine innings.
The setbacks give the Eagles an 8-8 card entering GLIAC play this weekend. NKU is 15-8.
In the first game, NKU led 2-1 heading to the bottom of the fourth inning. The Norse had two doubles in the inning and the last of those, by catcher Kari Lang, drove in two runs. That gave NKU a 4-1 lead and on this day, that was enough for starter and winner Emily Schwaeble. She held AU to a run on five hits in a route-going effort. Schwaeble walked three and struck out six.
The loss went to Emlyn Knerem (Brunswick). This was Knerem's first loss since she was beaten by Lewis, 2-1 on Mar. 6. That was AU's season opener and since that defeat, Knerem had won seven consecutive decisions. Knerem (7-2) defeated the Norse twice last season. This time, she was touched for four runs on seven hits. The junior walked two and struck out 10.
NKU's first run came in the second inning when right fielder Ashley Gates hit her fourth homer of the season. The next inning, third baseman Katie Sullivan homered for the first time this season. Before Tuesday's game, Knerem had not allowed a home run this season.
No player had more than one hit for the Eagles. AU's lone run came in the third inning when left fielder Erica Miller (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) singled to score right fielder Alex Machen (Lebanon, Ohio). Machen led off the inning with a double to right-center field. Miller leads the club in RBI (14).
The Eagles were more productive in the second game, they out-hit the Norse, 10-5, but they still couldn't get a win. NKU scored twice in the first and held that 2-0 lead until the top of the fifth when second baseman Cayla Seidler (Massillon, Ohio/Washington) singled to drive in her sixth run of the season.
Ashland took a 3-2 lead in the sixth, scoring twice. Miller singled to bring home the first run and a double by shortstop Bri Woody (Cleveland, Ohio/Magnificat) scored Miller.
NKU tied the game in the bottom of the seventh on a wild pitch. Neither team scored again until the top of the ninth when pitcher Logan Hursey (Zanesville, Ohio/John Glenn) bounced out to second to score Woody. By this time, the game was using the international tie-breaker rule, meaning Woody was placed at second to start the inning.
Once again, with a loss looming, NKU bounced back. A throwing error scored NKU's first run in the ninth and the winning run came home on a two-out single by Gates. In addition to the error in the ninth, the Eagles also uncorked a wild pitch and hit a batter.
Schwaeble pitched the final 4.1 innings to get the win. She's 3-3. AU got to her for three runs (two earned) on four hits. Chelsie Roy started and went the first 4.2 innings, allowing a run on six hits.
Hursey (1-6) took the loss for Ashland. She pitched a complete game, allowing five runs on five hits. Hursey walked six and struck out eight.
AU will host Hillsdale on Friday (Mar. 25, 3:30 p.m.).