Anyone who has watched the needle on the gas gauge creep toward "E" while trying to go just one more extra mile can sympathize with the softball teams from Ashland and Tiffin.
Saturday (Apr. 27) at Brookside Park, the Eagles won the gas-guzzling opener of a GLIAC doubleheader , 5-4 in 10 innings. That back-and-forth battle drained a lot of energy from both teams. Both were running on fumes in the second game, which Tiffin won, 5-4.
The Saturday split gives the Eagles a 3-1 record for the weekend (AU swept Ohio Dominican on Friday). Ashland is 25-16 heading into next week's GLIAC Tournament at Findlay. In conference play, the Eagles are 16-7.
In Saturday's opener, Ashland stranded 13 runners and Tiffin (20-24/13-11 GLIAC) left 15 runners on base. That shows that both teams had ample opportunities to score. AU was trailing, 4-3 in the bottom of the 10th inning when third baseman Jerrica Young (Loundonville) singled up the middle to drive in Kourtney Yarnall (Canton, Ohio/Perry) and Tawna Garver (Mansfield, Ohio/Hillsdale). The hit was Young's first of the day, she was 0-for-4 before delivering the game winner. Garver was 3-for-3 with a pair of walks. Yarnall began the inning stationed at second base because in the 10th inning, the international tie-breaker is employed.
The game was tied, 1-1 after one inning. Tiffin got an RBI double from catcher Caitlin Houck to go in front, 2-1 in the third and added another run in the fourth for a 3-1 lead. Houck was a handful for AU all day – she was 3-for-5 in the first game.
Yarnall had a two-out, two-run single in the fifth inning to tie the game, 3-3. The score remained that way until Tiffin pushed a run across in the top of the 10th, right fielder Jena King scoring from third base on an infield error.
This was a game with wild swings in momentum. The Eagles committed six errors, yet also had some exceptional defensive plays. In the top of the ninth inning, the Eagles cut down Gamm at home plate when she tried to score on a short single to right field. On that play, the throw from second baseman Cayla Seidler (Massillon, Ohio/Massillon Washington) was perfect and Garver held her ground – and the ball – when Gamm slammed into her.
AU starter Amber McDermott (Creston, Ohio/Norwyane) pitched the front seven innings. The victory went to Sarah Alley (Milford, Ohio), who worked the final three innings. McDermott allowed three runs (two earned) on eight hits. Alley gave up an unearned run on three hits.
Tiffin's Amber Young (9-7) went the distance and threw 170 pitches. She allowed 10 hits. Of the five runs she allowed, only one was earned. The Dragons had three errors.
Alley (13-7) started the second game and the Dragons got to her for a run in the first and four in the second. Tiffin had eight hits at that point. Houck singled to drive in the run in the first and she banged out a two-run single in the second. The second inning opened with three consecutive Tiffin singles. Six of the first seven hitters in that inning singled.
One of the most impressive things to come out of the second game from AU's perspective was the work of sophomore pitcher McKenna Galloway (Brunswick, Ohio). She entered in the top of the third inning and pitched four scoreless innings. She allowed a single to the first hitter she faced – Kasie Sepeda – and retired the next 12 hitters she faced. She got nine outs via the ground ball.
The Eagles struck for four runs in the third inning. Seidler, who was 3-for-3 in the nightcap, had an RBI double in the inning. Young doubled to drive in a run and two more runs scored on wild pitches.
In the seventh inning, the Eagles had a runner at third with two outs when Amber Young struck out Jerrica Young to end the game. That was the only batter Amber Young faced in the second game. She earned her first save of the season. Tiffin started Sarah Brown and then turned to Kelsey Yaratch. Yaratch (2-4) received credit for the win. She pitched 4.1 innings and gave up a run on six hits.
AU's first-round opponent in the GLIAC Tournament will be announced at the beginning of next week. Ashland is ranked seventh in the Midwest Region and has the opportunity to reach the postseason for a fifth consecutive season. The GLIAC Tournament is an eight-team tournament and is a double-elimination affair.