Eagles Outlast Chargers For Sweep in GLIAC Opener

Years ago, when Billy Joel sang the song, "The Entertainer," he lamented the fact that some of his songs were too long to be hits because deejays couldn't spend that much airtime on one song.

            That is not the case with softball.  Sometimes long games become classics. Like familiar tunes, they become scenes that can't leave the mind. 

            Friday (Mar. 25) at Brookside Park, the Ashland University softball team opened GLIAC play with a 12-0, 5-2 sweep of Hillsdale. The first game went five innings and the second game lasted 10 innings and it is the kind of game that could be termed "platinum."  If this season turns around for the 10-8 Eagles, this could be one of those unforgettable moments.

            The second game lasted 2:40 in arctic conditions.  This was AU's second extra-inning game of the week – on Tuesday the Eagles lost, 5-4 in nine frames at Northern Kentucky.  A loss here could have been a dagger to AU's heart, especially since the Eagles have doubleheaders to come Saturday and Sunday against Grand Valley State and Ferris State.

            In the ninth inning of the second game with the score tied, HC's Jennifer Berlet led off with a triple to right field. That was the Chargers' first hit since the fourth inning. Yet there the winning run stood, 60 feet away and Ashland didn't have an out recorded. 

            Junior Emlyn Knerem (Brunswick, Ohio) intentionally walked the next hitter, Jessica Guertin. Guertin moved to second via a stolen base.  Knerem then struck out Kellie Hirst and Mary Depner and retired Kate Hoop on a grounder to first base.

             In the top of the 10th, the international tie-breaker was put into play and AU scored three times. The first run scored on a single by Frankie Gironda (Akron, Ohio/Hoban) and two more runs scored on a double to left-center field by third baseman Alysssa Kelley (Mentor, Ohio).  Knerem set the Chargers (3-12/0-2) down in order in the bottom half of the inning to close out the sweep.

            Knerem was pitching in relief of Logan Hursey (Zanesville, Ohio/John Glenn).  Knerem got both wins against Hillsdale and is 9-2. In the second game, she allowed a hit in four innings with one walk and seven strikeouts. In the opener, she went five innings and allowed one hit – a double to right field by Hoop after 4.2 hitless innings. Knerem did not walk a batter and struck out five in the opener.  In addition to Hoop's hit, the only other player to reach base was Depner, who was nicked by a pitch.

            Knerem wasn't the only star on this day. Kelley was 5-for-6 with four RBI in the second game and on the day, reach base eight of nine times she came to the plate. Center fielder Lyndsey Brandt (Painesville, Ohio/Riverside) was 4-for-8 and scored three runs. Gironda had three hits in the two games.  Catcher Tawna Garver (Mansfield, Ohio/Hillsdale) was 3-for-3 in the first game and ended the day with four hits.

            In the second game, Ashland had a 14-3 edge in hits, but couldn't break through against the Chargers.  Hursey gave the Eagles a quality effort with six solid innings. She allowed two runs on two hits.  She only walked two batters, which is a key point because she has struggled with her control. The only runs Hursey allowed came on a two-run homer by Taylor Schulty in the third inning.

            Kelley drove in AU's first run with a third-inning single and in the seventh inning, the Eagles tied the game, 2-2 when Kelley singled up the middle to score Brandt, who had doubled.  AU had runners at first and second with one out and couldn't score and in the eighth, had a runner at second with one out and didn't produce a run. Hirst, the HC starter, went nine gutty innings and allowed two runs on 11 hits.  She walked three, struck out nine and escaped just about every jam she encountered.

            The loss in the second game went to Schulty, who pitched the 10th inning.

            In the opener, Ashland broke the game open with nine runs in the third inning.  AU had six hits in that rally.  Garver and second baseman Cayla Seidler (Massillon, Ohio/Washington) had two-run singles and Hursey chased home a run with a double.  The Eagles had 11 hits, all against starter and loser Laura Homan (0-5).  Shortstop Bri Woody (Cleveland, Ohio/Magnificat) was 2-for-3 with two RBI. Woody clubbed her first homer of the season.  She was one of five players with two RBI in the game.

            Ashland returns to GLIAC play on Saturday (Mar. 26, noon) when it hosts Grand Valley State.