Softball opens season at Total Control Sports Invitational
February 15, 2017
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ROSEMONT, Ill. — The Western Illinois softball team began the 2017 season at the Total Control Sports Invitational over the weekend in Rosemont. The Leathernecks were able to pick up two victories to start the season but also lost three games.
Western posted a huge sixth inning in the first of a doubleheader Friday afternoon to defeat the Green Bay Phoenix 8-2 in their first contest of the new season. Junior Brooke Stulga pitched the final six innings and earned the win, allowing two earned runs and striking out three.
The Leathernecks entered the sixth with a slim 2-0 advantage before the bats came alive and buried Green Bay.
Freshman Halle Hollatz got the ball rolling with a single up the middle in her collegiate debut. Meghan Henson was awarded a free pass when a pitch hit her and Stulga reached on a fielder’s choice. Junior Rachel Beatty then platted a pair with a two-RBI double to right field. She would come home along with Stulga on another double off the bat of Nina Maggio.
The insurance was more than enough for the Leathernecks. They held on for the easy win despite two Green Bay runs in their half of the sixth.
In the nightcap, Western lost their first game of the season 3-2 to Loyola-Chicago.
Beatty picked up right where she left off from the first game in the opening inning. She led off the game with a single and moved into scoring position thanks to a fielding error. Senior Holly Hoelting brought her home to give the Leathernecks an early advantage with a single to left field.
Western added to their lead in the third with their final run of the night. Emily Ira reached base on another fielding error before advancing to second on a wild pitch. Maggio raked a single down the leftfield line to bring Ira home.
The Leathernecks were able to take advantage of early mistakes but couldn’t find a way to make it last. Loyola tied the game in the bottom of the third with a two-RBI triple off the bat of Shannon McGee. They tacked on what proved to be the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the sixth.
Western had no trouble producing base runners. Seven different Leathernecks recorded base hits in Friday’s nightcap but they could never convert the run they needed most. Ira picked up the loss on the mound, allowing five hits and two earned runs in all seven innings.
The Leathernecks were right back at it early Saturday morning and utilized a late come back to defeat the defending Big East Champion Butler Bulldogs 7-6.
Western trailed 6-2 with just nine outs to work with despite two solo homeruns early by Taylor Messer and Payton Abbot. Abbot also recorded five innings on the mound in her first career pithing start and allowed five earned runs.
Maggio made it clear that the Leathernecks weren’t ready to surrender in the fifth. She brought home two with a triple to left field to cut Butler’s lead in half. Still, Western trailed 6-4 when they came up to bat in the bottom of the sixth.
With a runner on first and one out, pinch-hitter Sydney Hollings delivered a single to right and represented the tying run. Erin Rossetto, another pinch-hitter, then brought the tying runs home before advancing to third on a throwing error. She would then score what proved to be the winning run on Brittanee Knepper’s second infield single of the game.
Stulga relieved Abbot in the sixth inning and kept the Bulldogs off the board to insure the comeback victory. She earned her second win of the season on the mound as the Leathernecks improved to 2-1.
Western was over 500 for just a couple of hours before falling 6-4 to the host of the Invitational, the UIC Flames.
The Leathernecks took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning thanks to an RBI single by Kelsey Marlow. Their bats would stay quiet for the majority of the game.
Western was unable to keep pace with the Flames, who scored six runs off starting pitcher Emily Ira (five earned). They scored 1 in the second, 3 in the third and 2 in the fifth to take a commanding 6-1 lead.
The Leathernecks made a valiant effort at another comeback. Maggio brought home the second run of the game with a double to centerfield and came home on a Hoelting base hit to cut the deficit to 3.
Western was able to load the bases and bring one more home, but UIC held on for the 6-4 win.
The Leathernecks dropped their fifth and final contest of the weekend to Detroit Mercy 5-1 early Sunday morning. After starting the season 2-0 on the bump, Stulga surrendered 3 earned runs and picked up her first loss.
The only Western run of the morning came off the bat of Hoelting in the bottom of the second. She was able to hit her eighth career homerun over the left field wall to give her team an early advantage. Western scattered 8 other hits in the loss.
Detroit Mercy came up with a pair off Stulga in the fourth and fifth innings and never looked back. Western had one more chance to get back into the game in the bottom half of the fifth when they loaded the bases. They left all runners stranded and sealed their 2-3 start to 2016.
The softball team will be back at it this weekend for the Holiday Inn Hilltopper Classis in Bowling Green, Kentucky. They have four scheduled games, two on Saturday and two on Sunday. They will face Miami (Ohio) and Belmont on Saturday at 10 a.m. and 12:30. They will meet Western Kentucky at 12:30 on Sunday before playing again at either 3 p.m. or 5:30. The last opponent will depend on their performance in the first three games. Western does not return to Macomb until March 25.