Softball uses late comeback to solidify series win

Brie Coder, Courier Staff

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The Western Illinois softball team (11-20, 2-1) began Summit League competition with a doubleheader on Saturday against the South Dakota Coyotes (10-19, 1-2). The Leathernecks split the games before concluding their opening conference series with a win on Sunday.

The Leathernecks drew first blood in the series and in the bottom of the first in game one when Holly Hoelting brought home Sam Ralphs. In the second inning, sophomore Emily Ira hit her first solo home run to the right field. Ira also pitched a complete game, which resulted in her fifth victory of the season.

The third inning gave the Leathernecks a hefty advantage and put it out of reach from then on. They posed five runs and built a 7-0 lead. Hoelting began with a tworun home after Kelsey Marlow reached on a double to left center. Freshman Meghan Henson and Ira recorded base hits, and senior Taylor Messer concluded a three-run shot to left center field to put their total at seven.

South Dakota received a run in the top of the fourth inning, but Western quickly answered back. Marlow stepped up to the plate and provided her third triple of the season. Freshman Jasmine Lara walked to reach base giving the Leathernecks an 8-1 lead. In the fifth inning, a solo run and a two-run shot in the sixth brought the Coyotes within four runs.

With an RBI during the bottom of the sixth, Marlow was able to send freshman Sydney Hollings home with a 9-4 score. The top of the seventh was concluded when Ira was able to retire the Coyotes with the leading victory.

Later on in the afternoon on Saturday, the offense for Western stayed consistent and strong during the opening inning of play. The Leathernecks were able to hit three consecutive home runs in the bottom of the first inning creating a 4-0 lead. Marlow hit a two-run homer to center field. After Marlow, Hoelting hit a solo shot to center. Then Henson concluded the homerun streak to left field.

During the top of the second, the Coyotes had five hits and brought home six runs to rage out in front. The game would get out of Western’s hands fast from that point on. The Coyotes continued with their scoring with a pair in the third and fifth before blowing the doors open with five more in the top of the seventh to take a 15-4 lead.

The Leathernecks were able to put a few runners on in the bottom of the seventh but couldn’t bring any home.

“I was very happy with how we came out at the plate today in both games,” said Western Illinois head coach Holly Van Vlymen. “It was nice to open summit league play with a win against a very good team. The girls will learn from today’s games and come out tomorrow ready to go.”

Game three began on Sunday at 11 a.m. The Leathernecks prevailed yet again this weekend with a 9-8 victory over the Coyotes. The first inning was scoreless between both team, but South Dakota drew first blood in the second.

It began when Coyote catcher Jessica Rogers homered to right field to build a 2-0 advantage. After Rogers, Camille Fowler tripled to left field to bring home two more. Fowler was then able to score due to a wild pitch to put them up 5-0. The damage concluded on the Coyote’s side when Emily Winkler homered to right field.

The Leathernecks weren’t able to make any noise until the bottom of the fifth inning when they put themselves on the board. It began when Payton Abbott singled to left field to bring home a run. Rachel Beatty then produced a hit to right center, giving herself an RBI and adding another run and cutting the deficit to four. Jasmine Lara received a walk and scored courtesy of a Marlow double to make it 6-3.

During the top of both the sixth and seventh inning, the Coyotes were able to get one run in each inning, which changed their score to 8-3.

The Leathernecks looked to be dead in the water when they were down to their last three outs. Brooke Stulga had an RBI right to center field to cut the lead in half. Taylor Messer then singled to left field, which helped Hoelting advanced to second, and Ralphs to score.

An Abbott infield single brought home two more and the Leathernecks were suddenly within one run. Beatty was then able to single to right field to tie the game and put the winning run in scoring position in the form of Abbott. Sydney Hollings then ended the game with another single, completing the six-run rally in the seventh inning and a 9-8 win.

“That was so much fun,” Van Vlymen said. “They’re my cardiac kids as I like to call them. They like to save their best for last.”

The softball team will now hit the road for seven straight games before returning to Macomb. They will be back at it with a double header against Omaha on Saturday. The series will then conclude with a single game on Sunday. They will then face Fort Wayne for another doubleheader against the Mastodons (7-22) on April 8 before concluding that conference series with a single game the following day. The road stand concludes with a non-conference doubleheader against the Missouri Tigers of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) on April 11.

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