The Ashland University softball team has not been hit with a large number of injuries this season. Even so, the head coach of the Eagles, Sheilah Gulas, would be quick to say her team was in "guarded condition," entering this weekend.
The Eagles are ranked seventh in the region and the top eight teams advance to the NCAA Division II playoffs at the end of the season. The Eagles (they began the day in fourth place, along with several other teams, are jostling for position behind first place Grand Valley State in the GLIAC standings. This is the final weekend of regular season play, the conference tournament takes place next week at Findlay. Time is running out on every team in the region that wants to make an emphatic statement that they belong in the postseason field.
Friday (Apr. 26) at Brookside Park the Eagles made their case that they aren't on the critical list. AU swept Ohio Dominican, 7-1 and 6-2. Ashland is 24-15, 15-6 in the GLIAC and has a four-game winning streak. The Eagles have won 12 of their last 15 games. Saturday (Apr. 27, noon), AU hosts Tiffin on Senior Day.
Ashland's pitching never let the Panthers (20-26-1/15-9 GLIAC) get untracked on Friday. In the opener, sophomore Amber McDermott (Creston, Ohio/Norwayne) hurled a tidy, five-hitter. McDermott gave up a homer to Alex Cribari in the first inning. She allowed three hits over the first two frames, then settled in and never was threatened again. She is 9-3.
In the second game, sophomore Sarah Alley (Milford, Ohio) didn't allow a run until the sixth. By that time, she was working with a 6-0 lead. Alley left after the sixth inning, freshman Zoe Myers (Worthington, Ohio/Thomas Worthington) worked the final inning. Alley allowed a run on eight hits. She is 12-6.
That kind of pitching, backed by a team that didn't commit an error in two games, left the Panthers frustrated. Once they got behind, they couldn't find a way to turn the momentum.
In the opener, AU went ahead to stay with a three-run second inning. The Eagles put together four consecutive singles and got run-scoring singles from catcher Tawna Garver (Mansfield, Ohio/Hillsdale) and shortstop Jamie Weber (Orient, Ohio/Teays Valley). Weber ended the game 2-for-3 with two RBI.
Ashland upped its lead to 5-2 in the fourth on right fielder Kourtney Yarnall's (Canton, Ohio/Perry) sixth homer of the season, a two-run shot to center field. AU scored two more runs in the fifth. One of those came courtesy of third baseman Jerrica Young (Loundonville, Ohio), who belted her team-leading ninth round-tripper. Ashland finished the game with nine hits.
The second game saw the Eagles strike for five runs in the third inning. First baseman Franki Gironda (Akron, Ohio/Hoban) has a two-run single in that explosion. Yarnall and left fielder Carly West (Ashland, Ohio/Hillsdale) had a run-scoring single apiece and designated hitter Jen Moore (Jeromesville, Ohio/Hillsdale) brought in a run with an infield ground ball.
Center fielder Taylor Menhart (Twinsburg, Ohio) was 3-for-4 and Weber went 2-for-3. She was 4-for-6 in the doubleheader.
Caitlin Jividen, Taylor Thomas and Lizzy Weber had two hits each for ODU.