Softball sweeps Golden Grizzlies

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Nico Haeflinger

After being swept opening weekend by South Dakota State, the Western Illinois softball team returned to Summit League play this weekend against the Oakland Golden Grizzlies. 

This series marked the return to the starting lineup for shortstop Sammy Marshall, who made an immediate impact both offensively and defensively in Game 1 of a doubleheader on Saturday. 

“I definitely felt back at home,“ Marshall said. “It was very hard watching last weekend … It was finally good to go out there and get some ground balls and play a bigger part than just hitting.“

Not only did she make every defensive play hit her direction, but she also did what she does best as a lead

off hitter: put pressure on opposing teams.

Starting Game 1, she drew a leadoff walk, stole a base and scored the game’s first run on a passed ball and the Leathernecks never looked back. 

Senior pitcher Kelsey Michelini pitched one of her best games of the season, striking out six and retiring 12 in a row after allowing a lead off single. 

Western opened up the game in the fifth as it plated four runs on six consecutive base hits and went on to win Game 1, 5-1. 

Coming off of the three-hit victory, Michelini was once again in the circle for Game 2. This game was all Golden Grizzlies early on as they took a 3-0 lead off the first inning home run hit by junior outfielder Shannon Cleveland. 

The momentum in the game shifted for the Leathernecks in the bottom of the fourth inning as third baseman Megg Kelly continued her hot streak. Kelly crushed a line drive that stayed just inside the foul pole down the left field line for her third home run in the last six games.

 “It took a while to get going,” Kelly said. “I felt uncomfortable at the plate the first half of the season. As soon as I took a step back and simplified things, those walks (12 on the year, a team high) have helped me see pitches and help me see what ones I can hit better.” 

That patience is certainly helping at the plate, as she is hitting .571 over that stretch with seven runs batted in. 

Three batters later, Western took a 4-3 lead off of a two-run double off the bat of senior catcher Alex Pflieger. 

After getting in a jam in the sixth, Teagan Walsh came in to relieve Michelini and picked up her first save of

the season.

Michelini picked up a pair of wins in the double header and improved to 3-6 overall. In her two starts, she struck out 12 Golden Grizzlies while only allowing three earned runs in 12 innings of work. 

“Her pitches have been moving; she’s been hitting her corners; she’s been changing speeds,“ head coach Holly Van Vlymen said. “I know that she’s going to continue to do that and more through the rest of the season.“

The third game of the series originally scheduled for Sunday morning was canceled because of the

impending snow, giving Western the sweep. 

Following the wins, Western improved to 7-10 overall and 2-3 in Summit League play. The team will leave for a four-day road trip Wednesday morning. 

The trip will start off with a rescheduled single game at Valpraiso Wednesday afternoon before heading to Fort Wayne for a three game conference series with the Mastodons, who are 10-6 but have yet to play a Summit

League game.