A year ago when the Tiffin Dragons went 6-0 against the Ashland University softball team, that wasn't a broom that was used for the sweep. It seemed more like a Zamboni machine.
Friday (Apr. 20) at Brookside West, the Eagles repaid the favor. They downed the Dragons, 4-3 and 7-0 to complete a four-game season sweep. The Eagles didn't come armed with a push broom. This was more like one of those big trucks the city of Ashland uses to wipe the streets clean.
"That third game, the first game today, was critical," said AU head coach Sheilah Gulas. "We really didn't have very good at bats through the first five innings. We didn't put any pressure on their pitcher. We started to battle in the sixth and seventh innings. That's when we started to make things happen."
The Eagles needed this win to stay alive in the chase with Grand Valley State for the GLIAC regular season title. AU and GVSU are battling for the best record in the league and to get the second seed in the regional. Wayne State is also trying to force its way into the mix for the GLIAC South Division crown. AU is 38-12, 22-8 in the GLIAC and has won six straight games.
AU trailed, 3-1 entering the seventh inning of the first game. All the runs to that point had come off of home runs. Tiffin shortstop Meagan Baird had two solo shots and third baseman Amanda Temple had a solo blast. AU got a solo homer from senior shortstop Bri Woody (Cleveland, Ohio/Magnificat) in the fourth inning. The homer was her second of the season.
In the bottom of the seventh, second baseman Cayla Seidler (Massillon, Ohio/Washington) led off with a walk. After Tiffin pitcher Amber Young retired Jerrica Young (Loudonville, Ohio) on a popup to third base, third baseman Alyssa Kelley (Mentor, Ohio) lined her second homer of the season over the fence in right-center field to tie the game, 3-3. Kelley is hitting a GLIAC best .436 and has a 10-game hitting streak.
At that point, the Eagles would have been happy to go to extra innings and take their chances. As it turned out, that wouldn't be necessary. First baseman Franki Gironda (Akron, Ohio/Hoban) followed Kelley's homer with a walk and Jamie Weber (Orient, Ohio/Teays Valley) pinch ran for her. After Taylor Menhart (Lodi, Ohio) went down on strikes, catcher Tawna Garver (Mansfield, Ohio/Hillsdale) singled to left field to advance Weber to second.
That brought up sophomore right fielder Kourtney Yarnall (Canton, Ohio/Perry). She fought off several pitches on the corner before ripping a single to left field. Gulas never wavered – she waved Weber home immediately. Chelsea Von Driska's throw beat Weber to the plate but Weber was able to slide in through the back door to beat the tag.
"She (Kourtney) had an outstanding at bat," said Gulas. "She could have swung at some of those pitches, she was able to lay off a couple of high pitches. What a great at bat."
That run made a winner of Emlyn Knerem (Brunswick, Ohio), who allowed three runs on six hits. Knerem, who is 26-2, walked two and struck out eight. She has tied her single-season high for wins with two starts left in the regular season.
Young (11-11) allowed four runs on five hits. She walked seven and struck out 10.
In the nightcap, freshman Amber McDermott (Creston, Ohio/Norwayne) pitched her second shutout of the season. McDermott (11-6) was touched for five hits. She walked six and struck out three.
"Emlyn and Amber pitched well today," said Gulas. "They gave up those home runs and that was all they got. The wind today at the beginning of the game was crazy."
AU led, 1-0 after one inning and had a 4-0 lead entering the bottom of the fifth inning. Tiffin (25-22/16-14) loaded the bases in that frame with no outs. McDermott got out of the jam when Stephanie Bobotas lined out to Kelley at third. Kelley was able to reach back and tag Emily Shaw, who was diving back to third base. That twin killing short-circuited the scoring threat because after a walk, McDermott got Caitlin Houck to ground out for the final out of the inning.
AU got homers in the second game from Gironda and Young. Gironda has six homers this year and Young leads the club with eight round-trippers. Gironda has 38 RBI and Young has driven in 34 runs.
Garver had hits in both ends of the doubleheader and has a 13-game hitting streak. The second game saw sophomore outfielder Carly West (Ashland, Ohio/Hillsdale) go 2-for-3 with a double. Yarnall also went 2-for-3. AU benefitted from several outstanding running catches in center field by Menhart. A year ago, Lyndsey Brandt set a high standard with her glove work there. Menhart is approaching that level.
"She really made some big plays," remarked Gulas.
The Eagles are off this weekend. They will play at Wayne State this coming Tuesday (Apr. 24, 3:30 p.m.). The Warriors lead the season series, 2-0.