The Northern Kentucky University softball team captured a doubleheader sweep of Great Lakes Valley Conference rival Missouri-St. Louis (11-9, 1-3 in the GLVC) on March 21 at the Frank Ignatius Grein Softball Field.
The Norse (13-8, 7-2 in the GLVC) capitalized on a six-run sixth inning to spark a comeback that led them to a 10-8 victory in the first contest of the day.
The Missouri-St. Louis Tritons scored four runs on five hits in the opening inning after NKU recorded the first two outs of the ballgame. Three singles, a double and a home run capped a solid start for UMSL.
The Norse answered quickly by scoring four runs in the bottom of the inning. Back-to-back singles from sophomore shortstop Jessica Farris and senior outfielder Stephanie West sparked the early rally. Freshman designated player Emily Schwaeble reached first on a fielder’s choice to load the bases and Farris would score soon after on a groundout by sophomore outfielder Ashley Gates. On the ensuing at-bat, junior pitcher April Ehlers cranked a homer over the left-center field wall to even the score at 4-all.
UMSL took a 7-4 lead in the top of the third – scoring three more runs on four hits. The Tritons then added an insurance run in the top of the sixth to increase the lead to 8-4. But an offensive power surge from NKU came in the bottom of the sixth.
Junior catcher Jamie Raabe led off with a walk and freshman infielder Katie Sullivan followed with a double to left-center field. Farris stepped up to the plate and knocked the ball out of the park for a three-run round-tripper.
The homer cut UMSL’s commanding lead to one, 8-7.
Three singles and a double would help the Norse tack on three more runs to take a 10-8 lead before heading into the final inning of play.
Junior pitcher Chelsie Roy closed the door on the Tritons to seal the win for NKU. Roy (3-3) threw for 4 2/3 innings and was awarded with the ‘W.’ Farris was 4-for-5 with three RBIs and Ehlers was 2-four-4 with four RBIs to fuel the comeback.
In Game two, NKU picked up where they left off as they routed UMSL 8-0 in five innings; the game was ended early due to the 8-run mercy rule coming into play.
Schwaeble (4-0) was the hurler in the circle for the Norse. She threw five innings, giving up just one hit, three walks and six strikeouts to shutout the Tritons.
All eight of the runs for NKU came in the first three innings. Farris singled to lead off the bottom of the first and West dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move her to second. Senior infielder Rose Broderick singled to right field driving in Farris for the first run of the game. A two-run homer by junior outfielder Gretchen Lorenz highlighted a three-run second inning to push the Norse lead to 4-0.
NKU struck for four more runs in the bottom of the third inning to ice the game at 8-0. Schwaeble would retire six-in-a-row to seal NKU’s shutout of UMSL.
During spring break, NKU posted a 4-2 record at the Rebel Spring Games (RSG) in Kissimmee, Fla.
The Norse were scheduled to play eight games in just four days, but heavy rain prevented them from playing the last two on March 11.
The Norse lost 2-0 against No. 13 Saginaw Valley State in its first game on March 8, where NKU struggled at the plate. Broderick and Schwaeble were the only two Norse players to record a hit.
NKU faced Concordia-St. Paul in the second game of the RSG and the hitting woes continued for the Norse. The Norse held a 2-0 lead until the bottom of the sixth inning when the Golden Bears tied the game on a string of three big hits.
Locked at a 2-2 score, the game moved into an extra inning in which Concordia-St. Paul cashed in on a walk-off single to win the game 3-2.
On day two of the RSG, the Norse claimed a pair of victories defeating Clarion (Pa.) 10-2 in the first ball game. The Norse defeated No. 15 California (Pa.), 5-0 in the second contest.
Solid hitting and tough pitching helped the team cap off two more wins on March 10. In its first game, NKU knocked off Shippensburg (Pa.) 3-2 in nine innings of action. The Norse slipped past the Huskies of St. Cloud (Minn.) State in the final game of the RSG by a score of 4-3.
NKU went 45-158 at the plate, putting the team average at .284 for the RSG. Four players combined for 29 of those 45 hits. West and Lorenz went 7-16 during the six-game stretch. Broderick was 8-19 at the plate and Schwaeble connected on 7-21, tallying to a .333 average. Schwaeble also led NKU with six RBIs on the trip. Farris led the team in runs-scored with six.
From Kissimmee, Fla., NKU traveled to Springfield, Mo., to battle GLVC-rival Drury on March 13.
The Panthers defeated the Norse, 7-6 in 12 innings of play. Ehlers pitched 11 1/3 innings, giving up nine hits, seven runs and six walks. The Norse committed six errors in the game, Ehlers was charged with just two earned runs.
To complete the spring break tour, NKU traveled to Rolla, Mo., for doubleheader action against GLVC-foe Missouri S&T on March 14. The Miners took the first game by a score of 4-1, but NKU stole the second game by a score of 3-2. Splitting the two-game series with S&T completed a 5-4 road trip for the Black and Gold.
The Norse’ will be back in action on Thursday, March 25 as they host Ohio Dominican (10-13) at Frank Ignatius Grein Softball Field.
Story by Michael Collins