Northern Kentucky University Softball improved to a .500 record, after sweeping Great Lakes Valley Conference rival Southern Indiana in doubleheader action April 4 and splitting a two-game series against Kentucky Wesleyan April 5 at Frank Ignatius Grein Softball field in Highland Heights, Ky.
In Game 1 of the April 4 series, the Norse (16-16, 6-6 in the GLVC) began their offensive attack of USI (9-27, 1-9 in the GLVC) against starting pitcher, sophomore Dawn McClellan, in the bottom of the first as freshman Jessica Farris ignited the Norse with a line drive into the right-center field gap. She later scored on a passed ball. Junior first baseman Amanda Smith drew a one-out walk to get the Norse a base runner, and with one swing of the bat, senior third baseman Cara Parker added two runs on the board as she recorded her third homerun of the season.
‘I love being in those situations when you have to go up to the plate and drive runs in, Parker said. ‘It pumps every body up, it pumps you up and it puts the pitchers in a really good position.’
Struggling with her control, McClellan walked senior left fielder Shatona Campbell and gave up a single up the middle to junior designated player Sam Del Vecchio. McClellan lasted just one-third of an inning before being yanked. Freshman right fielder Ashley Gates doubled and sophomore pitcher April Ehlers singled to drive in two more runs that would give NKU a 5-0 lead after the first inning.
The Screaming Eagles answered in the top of the third inning, getting two runs of one hit and one error to cut the NKU lead to a three run margin, but the Norse made up for those two runs in the bottom of the third when Del Vecchio reached on a two out double and Gates sent the first pitch of her at-bat over the fence for a two run blast and a 7-2 lead.
Ehlers (8-9) continued to mow through the Eagles line-up as she recorded her eighth strikeout through four innings. After the fifth, she had retired nine batters in a row.
The Norse struck for two more runs in the bottom of five. Ehlers reached base on an error and sophomore pinch hitter Gretchen Lorenz singled up the middle to set up a two run triple off the bat of junior second baseman, Rose Broderick, making the score 9-2 in favor of the Norse.
As if nine wasn’t enough, Gates crushed her second long ball of the game with a walk off homerun in the bottom of the sixth, driving in three Norse runs and giving NKU the 12-2 victory.
The Norse continued their offensive, using a 10-run third inning to spark a 15-6 win over the Screaming Eagles in the latter contest of the doubleheader.
Two ISU fielding errors gave the Norse an early two-run advantage, but the Screaming Eagles rallied in the second, causing sophomore pitcher Chelsie Roy some trouble on the mound with six runs on four hits to take a sudden 6-2 lead.
However, NKU would tighten the margin to two with a pair of two-out homeruns in the bottom of the third.
Gates then ripped her third long ball of the day and recorded her eighth RBI of the afternoon. Parker’s clutch grand slam and second homer of the day, topped off a 10 run, nine hit inning that would give the NKU a 12-6 lead.
‘The adrenaline was really flowing, we haven’t played this well in a long time, so it’s nice to be able to sweep a conference team,’ Gates said. ‘One person got it started, it was just like a chain because everyone did their part and it was a total team effort that inning.’
The Norse added three more runs in the fourth to increase the lead to 15-6, which proved to be enough to seal the win to complete the sweep.
NKU then finished the weekend homestead, splitting a two game series against conference foe Kentucky Wesleyan (10-26, 2-8 in the GLVC).
The Norse picked up two runs in the second inning to get on the score board first. Parker led off the inning with a double and scored off a single from Campbell. Del Vecchio singled and Campbell was called out at third. Del Vecchio scored off an Ehlers double.
NKU added one run in the bottom of the fifth, which would give them enough to win the game 3-0.
Ehlers (9-9) gave up just four hits in a complete game shutout. She tallied 10 strikeouts and just one walk.
In Game 2 against the Panthers, the Norse scored a run off of a solo homer by Broderick in the bottom of the first inning. They scored two more runs in the third to grab a 3-0 lead. Kentucky Wesleyan finally broke the score board with a run in the top of the sixth off of three hits. NKU answered in the bottom of the inning, scoring one run to make it 4-1.
The Panthers rallied in the top of the seventh inning, collecting five hits and four runs to steal a 5-4 lead.
Three of four batters that came up to the plate struck out in the bottom of the seventh for the Norse, forcing them to lose the game, 4-5.
Next, the Norse will travel to St. Louis for a double header against GLVC opponent University of Missouri St. Louis (24-13,8-2 in the GLVC) at 12:00 p.m. on April 10 at UMSL Softball Field.
UMSL has three regular starters that have a batting average over than .300. Sophomore infielder Carolyn Oquendo is hitting .340, senior shortstop Kelly Essner is batting .336 and senior outfielder Megan Riggs is hitting .309. Essner leads the team in homeruns with six so far this season. Defense will be a key factor in the game for NKU as they will have to keep the errors to a bare minimum.
Senior pitcher Allyson DeFosset has proven to be the Tritons ace on the mound all season long. She has held opponent’s batting average to just .140 and her earned run average is an astounding 0.56. DeFosset has recorded 176 strikeouts through 16 games and posts a solid 13-3 record. The other four pitchers on the club average more than 3.50 runs per game.
The Norse have displayed homerun power in recent games, but small ball will play a large role in this GLVC showdown because the Tritons pitching staff has only given up six home runs this season.