In Cleveland on Sunday (May 1), the Detroit Tigers lost to the Cleveland Indians. That gave the Indians a sweep of the three-game series.
In Detroit, just down the street from Comerica Park where the Tigers play, the Ashland University softball team swept Wayne State, 4-0 and 8-5. They did it by following a tried and true statement once uttered by Tigers manager Jim Leyland.
Leyland was once asked about momentum in baseball. He replied that in baseball, momentum begins and ends with the next day's starting pitcher.
That can be true in softball as well. On Sunday, AU pitcher Emlyn Knerem (Brunswick, Ohio) helped the Eagles (29-15/21-7 GLIAC) end a four-game slide with a two-hit shutout in the opener with WSU. Thanks to that boost of confidence, the Eagles roared back to wipe out a 4-1 WSU lead in the nightcap.
The Eagles came to Detroit fresh off trip to Tiffin where they went 0-4 and were outscored 31-9. In the last game of the series, the Eagles allowed a season-high 16 runs. That's why Knerem's gem in Sunday's first game was so important. First of all, she shut down the Warriors, not allowing a hit until Alison Allen singled with two outs in the sixth inning. While she was quieting WSU (28-23-1/16-13-1), the Eagles were able to right the ship and get to starter and loser Sam Cain (12-14) for four runs in the third inning. That outburst accounted for all the runs in the game.
Knerem (22-6) walked four and struck out seven in notching her 11th shutout of the season. She threw 94 pitches and that number is significant because the Eagles would ask her to come back and start the second game.
AU's third inning salvo started with one out. Shortstop Bri Woody (Cleveland, Ohio/Magnificat) singled to center on a 1-2 offering. Third baseman Alyssa Kelley (Mentor, Ohio) stroked a double down the left-field line to bring Woody to third. The Warriors elected to give a free pass to designated player Logan Hursey (Zanesville, Ohio). That strategy looked good when Cain struck out second baseman Cayla Seidler (Massillon, Ohio/Washington). But sophomore catcher Tawna Garver (Mansfield, Ohio/Hillsdale), who like a year ago, has produced hits at the most critical times in the season's latter stages, doubled to right-center field on the first pitch she got from Cain. That shot cleared the bases.
Moments later another sophomore, first baseman Frankie Gironda (Akron, Ohio/Hoban), singled down the left-field line and AU had a 4-0 advantage. Gironda ended the game 3-for-3. Woody was 2-for-4. That duo had half of AU's 10 safeties.
Knerem pitched the front four innings in the second game and allowed four runs (two earned) on five hits. Ashland took a 1-0 lead in the third inning on a sacrifice fly by Seidler. WSU retaliated with four runs in the fourth. The inning started with an infield error and included three WSU hits, a walk and a hit batter. The damage could have been worse, the Warriors had the bases loaded when Knerem finally retired catcher Brittany Omelanchukon a fly ball to center for the third out.
Ashland got two runs back in the fourth. Both of the runs were unearned, thanks to a pair of WSU errors. Nevertheless, AU had closed the gap to 4-3.
Hursey came on to pitch in the fifth and although she allowed a run in that inning, she didn't give up anything else the remainder of the game. The Eagles got her the win when they exploded for five runs in the sixth inning. The first run came home when Kelley singled to score center fielder Lyndsey Brandt (Painesville, Ohio/Riverside), who started the inning with a single. Hursey followed the Kelley hit with a double to put runners at second and third.
Seidler followed that two-bagger with one of her own. That scored Kelley and advanced Hursey to third. The Warriors helped prolong the inning with a pair of errors and outfielder Erica Miller (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) made them pay for those miscues, lashing a double to left center. Add it all up and AU scored five times on five hits with two WSU errors. The Warriors committed five errors in the game.
Miller and Brandt had two hits each and Brandt scored three runs. Miller got the 200th hit of her career. First baseman Rebecca Ryan was 3-for-4 for WSU and designated player Rebecca Stanley was 2-for-2.
The victory improved Hursey's record to 3-9. Lauren McLaughlin (16-9) started and pitched a complete game for WSU. Of the eight runs she allowed only two were earned.
Ashland has won three of four meetings with WSU this year and that will be emphasized by the Eagles time and again. In this week's NCAA regional rankings, the Warriors are eighth and the Eagles are ninth. The top eight teams in the region at the end of the regular season advance to the playoffs. Ashland and Wayne State met in the regional championship series a year ago. WSU won that series, 2-0.
The Eagles are idle until the GLIAC Tournament, which will be played in Midland, Mich., May 6-8.