Softball goes 1-1 over weekend, moves to 2-7
Garett McCullough Sports Writer
After being outscored 47-9 in their first six games, the PSU softball team picked up its second win of the season at the Teri Zenner Memorial Tournament in Joplin, Sunday, March 6. The win came in the Gorillas’ first game of the trip against their former MIAA foe, the Missouri University of Science and Technology, 8-7, followed by a close 5-4 loss to Northeastern State University later that afternoon.
As usual, two right-handed pitchers toed the rubber in this game, with Amber Duncan getting the nod for the Missouri S&T Lady Miners and Pitt State’s Samantha Grove starting for the Gorillas. Grove, who was coming from a complete-game shutout against Southwestern Oklahoma State University, is one of many promising freshman pitchers with the Gorillas this season. And for the first two innings of the contest, she showed the Lady Miners that she was a force to be reckoned with. But, after holding the Lady Miners to no runs and one hit, Pitt State gave up a “big inning” that has plagued it throughout this season. Grove made it through 2/3 of the third inning, allowing five unearned runs on five hits as the defense committed two errors.
“Breeana, who I pulled in the first game for errors, made three great plays in the second,” said assistant coach Jeremy Shepherd.
Right-hander Tiffany Brown relieved Grove and got the final out before any more damage was done.
The Gorillas decided to make up for their sloppy defense in the bottom of the third, with Erin Eddy, Katelyn Birchfield and Kreslee Ketcham starting out the inning with three straight hits. And all three players would later come around to score in a four-hit, three-run third inning.
The Miners kept their bats alive in the fourth with a three-hit, two-run top of the fourth. Pitt State wasn’t about to go quietly. They were able to score four more runs, only one earned, on five hits in their half of the inning. Junior Amanda DeCastro had the big hit of the inning as she was able to knock out a two-run homer to tie the game at seven points.
Brown found her rhythm in her last three innings; she allowed zero runs on two hits while striking out five, in what Coach Shepherd called “just a great display of pitching.”
In the bottom of the sixth inning with the game tied at seven all relief pitcher Kristen Drage loaded the bases after walking Kelsey Loncarich. She then committed a cardinal sin of softball and walked Hilary Erbert, scoring the eventual winning run for the Gorillas. Drage was able to leave the rest of the runners on base, but Brown set the next three batters down in the top of the seventh, two by strike-out, earning the Gorillas’ second win of the year.
After performing well in the first game, Brown got the start that afternoon, facing off against Sarah Massey and the Northeastern State River Hawks.
Pitt State would waste no time getting on the board in this one, with Eddy leading off with a double. But, after a Birchfield pop out, Ketcham sent a shot out and over the left-center fence for a two-run homer. Massey kept her composure and set the next two batters down.
The Gorillas lit the scoreboard up again in the fourth as Breeana McCracken singled to left field and was thrown out trying for second, but not before Loncarich and DeCastro crossed home plate to give Pitt State a 4-0 lead.
The RiverHawks were finally able to break into the run column in the bottom fourth inning, scoring one on two hits, but it was the sixth inning which proved costly for the Gorillas. After getting the first batter out, Brown gave up five straight hits and two runs and was relieved by the same pitcher she replaced in the first game, Samantha Grove. Brown finished the afternoon with a pitch count of 173 pitches over the course of two games, but was the victim of a small strike zone.
“Tiffany really pitched a great game,” Shepherd said. “She had a real high pitch count and the strike zone just changed.”
Grove would allow three more runs to score, all earned and credited to Brown, with the last coming on a wild pitch that would allow Rachel Turner to score, giving the RiverHawks a 5-4 edge.
“In the first game, we made changes early,” Shepherd said. “But, in the second we made them too late.”
Pitt State got Erbert into scoring position in the top of the seventh, but wouldn’t be able to bring her around, stranding her on base and losing the game by one run.
The Gorillas are in action Thursday, March 10, traveling to Joplin to square off against longtime rivals, the Missouri Southern State University Lady Lions(9-7).