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Softball wins third straight Summit series

Sophomore+Emily+Ira+looks+in+and+delivers+a+pitch+at+Mary+Ellen+McKee+Stadium+in+Macomb
Sophomore Emily Ira looks in and delivers a pitch at Mary Ellen McKee Stadium in Macomb

Sophomore Emily Ira looks in and delivers a pitch at Mary Ellen McKee Stadium in Macomb

Angel Strack

Angel Strack

Sophomore Emily Ira looks in and delivers a pitch at Mary Ellen McKee Stadium in Macomb

Campbell Atkins

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. — The Western Illinois softball team (16-21, 5-2 in Summit League play) won their third-straight conference series to begin the season with a successful weekend against the Mastodons (8-28, 1-5) in Fort Wayne. The Leathernecks won two-out-ofthree games on the road, including a 6-0 victory in the rubber match on Sunday.

Western split the first two games of the series in a double-header on Saturday. Sophomore Emily Ira picked up the win on the mound in game one, allowing just one run on five hits in a 6-1 victory. She would also pick up the shutout win in Sunday’s matchup.

“Emily did a good job keeping them off balance,” said Western Illinois head softball coach Holly Van Vlymen. “We definitely came through with late adjustments in game one.”

Ira wasn’t the only pitcher turning heads in the opening part of the game. Junior Bailey Benefiel kept the Leathernecks off the scoreboard through the first four innings of play. There were no hits in the game until the bottom of the third and Western didn’t break out until the top of the fifth.

With two runners on and two outs, junior Rachel Beatty ripped a double over Caitlyn DeLong’s head in centerfield to put Western up one. Nina Maggio brought home two more with a single down the third baseline.

The Leathernecks turned what once looked like a pitcher’s duel into a large margin of victory when they scored three more runs in the top of the sixth. Taylor Messer recorded an RBI-double and pinchhitter Hailey Duwa brought another home with a single.

The Mastodons finally broke Ira’s shutout during their last chance in the bottom of the seventh. Ira recorded her seventh win of the season and struck out 12 Fort Wayne hitters in the 6-1 win.

Western turned around on Saturday and tried to complete the double- header sweep. The Leathernecks were unable to cash in on as many opportunities this time around and dropped a tight 4-3 decision after extra innings to even the series up at a game apiece.

“We had runners in scoring position several times in game two and failed to come through,” Van Vlymen said. “There’s no doubt we can bounce back from this and be fine.”

The Leathernecks got off to a good start early in game two. They were able to bring home two runs on a ball that was misplayed by Fort Wayne in the top of the third.

The Mastodons came back quickly this time around and got on the board with an RBI-single from leadoff hitter Lauren Watson in the bottom of the third. Just one inning later, Fort Wayne took their first lead of the series.

Sophomore Sierra Miranda tied the game at two in the bottom of the fourth with a solo shot that just barely cleared the wall in right field. Brooke Stulga relieved Western starting pitcher Payton Abbott after she surrendered another base hit. Stulga was then tagged for a double off the bat of Brooke Imel to put Fort Wayne ahead.

Western retaliated with another run to tie the game in the top of the fifth. Junior Kelsey Marlow began the threat with a single and utilized smart base running to benefit the Leathernecks. She moved into scoring position with a stolen base then tagged up from second on a fly ball by Holly Hoelting. Right fielder Sydney Windlan attempted to throw out Marlow at third but her throw sailed wild and allowed the tying run to score.

Stulga and Fort Wayne’s Darby Shaw settled in and were in a groove late. The game remained scoreless until the Mastodons came to bat in the bottom of the eighth. Imel came to the plate with two outs and a runner in scoring position. She hit a single down the leftfield line, allowing Miranda to score. The Mastodons took game two 4-3.

Ira was back to work in Sunday’s rubber match and kept Fort Wayne clueless at the plate all day. She recorded the shutout that she had just missed in Friday’s opener, allowing just three hits in the process.

Western scored to start the game for the third straight time over the weekend in the top of the second. Messer launched a two-run homerun to left centerfield and the Leathernecks never looked back.

Compton followed up in the top of the fourth inning with a solo homerun of her own. Benefiel got the start for Fort Wayne and was finished after four. Western did the rest of their damage off Darby Shaw.

The rest of the Leatherneck runs came off of RBI-singles from Marlow, Compton and Duwa to pad the lead down the stretch. Compton led the offensive charge for Western with four hits on the afternoon.

Ira concluded her magnificent weekend with a total record of 2-0 and just one run surrendered in 14 innings pitched. She improves to 8-10 on the season and the Leathernecks continue to play well in the Summit League.

Western will play with a midweek double-header against the Missouri on Tuesday. The games will conclude the current eightgame road trip. They will be back in Macomb and the Summit when they begin a three-game series with the IUPUI Jaguars (15-21, 5-1). The series begins with a double-header on Friday at 3 p.m. Twitter: @campbellatkins4

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
Softball wins third straight Summit series