Ashland University's softball team hasn't played many home games in 2018, but the Eagles are off to a good start in making the rest of the contests at Brookside Park this spring count.
On Friday (April 27), Ashland took 4-2 and 8-0 (five innings) decisions from Ferris State to improve to 21-21 overall and 11-13 in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The Eagles also moved into a tie for fifth place in the GLIAC standings, and the top eight teams will play in the 2018 GLIAC Tournament, May 4-6 at Sports Force Parks in Sandusky, Ohio.
"It feels nice to be in that conversation, but I try not to put too much emphasis on that with the team," said Ashland head coach Emlyn Knerem, whose team is No. 9 in the Midwest Region rankings. "Right now, we just need to focus on the game at hand. Now that today's over, we're focusing on tomorrow."
The Bulldogs are 14-28, 8-18.
Ashland broke the scoreless tie in Game 1 in the bottom of the third on an RBI single up the middle by junior first baseman Kylie Asmus. The Eagles went up 2-0 on an RBI grounder off the bat of sophomore shortstop Bree Gill.
In the top of the fourth, the lead became 3-0 on another RBI grounder, this one from Asmus. The final AU run in the opener was achieved in the bottom of the sixth with a run on the last of five Bulldog errors.
Following a rain delay of a little more than an hour, which included a dance-off between the Eagles and Bulldogs, freshman pitcher Laney Jones (5-4) finished off a gem of a complete-game three-hitter. Jones allowed no earned runs and two walks and struck out nine, and she improved to 5-2 in her last seven decisions.
"I felt really good today, and definitely, my defense backed me up," Jones said. "Overall, I think it was a good performance on both ends.
"It definitely helps going in knowing that I'm going to start, because that way, I can start my team off well."
Said Knerem, "Laney has really come into her own in this second half of the season. She's really settled into that Game 1 starting role. She's done a really good job for us."
Sophomore second baseman Camille Pollutro was 4-for-4 in the opener, and Asmus was 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
Ashland jumped on top in the nightcap, scoring two runs with two outs on an RBI fielder's choice off the bat of junior center fielder Erika Farst, and an FSU error which allowed junior designated player Katie Manahan to come home from second base.
The Eagles then exploded for six runs in the bottom of the fourth, highlighted by two-run singles by both junior third baseman Paige Summers and Manahan.
Junior pitcher Hannah Stroe (8-9) tossed a five-inning four-hit shutout, striking out four and not walking a batter. Asmus was 2-for-3 with an RBI, and has two hits in five of the last six contests.
UP NEXT: Another home twinbill on Saturday (April 28) at 1 p.m. vs. Saginaw Valley State (23-21, 14-12). The 1998 Eagles (53-6, GLIAC title) will have a 20-year reunion recognition between games.