The University of Rio Grande, behind the efforts of Minford native Kelsey Conkey, continued their roll by taking six affairs over the past 10 days by defeating Asbury (Ky.), Midway (Ky.) and Kentucky Christian to move to 32-6 overall and 12-0 in the River States Conference.
In the first pair of contest against Asbury, the RedStorm won the mercy rule-shortened opener, 13-1 in five innings, before blanking the Eagles, 4-0, in the nightcap.
Rio Grande, ranked No. 22 in the latest NAIA coaches’ poll, scored in each of its four at-bats in the opener but blew things open in the third by sending 12 batters to the plate and scoring eight times.
Freshman Michaela Criner finished 3-for-3 with a triple, a double and two runs batted in, while senior Kari Jenkins had three hits and two RBI and senior Cheyenne Hamaker went 2-for-2 with four runs scored.
Sophomore Carly Skeese also drove in two runs and junior Gabby Gregg hit a two-run home run as part of the eight-run third.
Senior Alex Stevens and sophomore Kelsey Conkey each added a double in the winning effort.
Senior Jenna Jones gave up three hits and a walk over four innings while striking out five.
Kamry Wells drove in a run for Asbury, while Deana Phillips started and took the loss for the Eagles.
The back end of the twin bill centered around the pitching performance of Conkey, who scattered six hits and a walk in a complete-game effort. The right-hander also struck out six, earning her 12th win in three decisions and firing her fourth shutout of the year.
The RedStorm got all of the offense it would need in the first inning when Hamaker led off with a double, was bunted to third by Stevens and scored on a sacrifice fly to right by Skeese.
The lead grew to 3-0 in the third on a two-out, two-run inside-the-park home run by Stevens — her first home run of the year – while a sixth-inning error by the Eagles allowed the final run to score.
Then, on April 9, Rio Grande swept a doubleheader from Midway University in River States Conference softball action at home.
The RedStorm pushed across a sixth-inning run to post a 1-0 win in the opener, while racing to a big early lead in an eventual 8-0 mercy rule-shortened triumph in the nightcap.
Game one was a pitcher’s duel from the outset between Jones and Midway’s Tiffany Wickline.
Jones allowed six hits and a walk, while striking out six in a complete game effort. The right-hander’s complete-game resulted in her eighth straight win after opening the season with three straight losses.
Wickline allowed just four hits and two walks, while fanning eight over six innings. Her season record evened at 7-7 with the loss.
Rio scored the game’s lone run in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Stevens led off with a single and moved into scoring position when she beat the throw to second base on a sacrifice bunt attempt by Skeese. Taylor Arndt followed with a sacrifice bunt attempt of her own, which was errored to load the bases, and Conkey brought home Stevens with a single to left field.
Wickline retired the next three batters to keep the deficit at one run, but Jones sealed the victory in the seventh by retiring Midway’s Carly Benz on a flyball to center to leave the would-be tying and go-ahead runs on base.
Lynsie Clark finished 2-for-3 in the loss for the Eagles.
In the nightcap, Rio Grande scored twice in the first inning and three times in the second inning and never looked back. All five of the runs were unearned.
The two first inning runs scored when a two-out fly to left off the bat of Conkey was dropped for an error, while Hamaker had a sacrifice fly and Skeese added a run-scoring single in the three-run second.
Skeese tacked on a two-run home run – her team-leading eighth of the season – in the fourth to make it 7-0, while Hamaker’s two-out RBI single in the home fifth plated the game’s final run.
Conkey improved to 13-1 with the win, tossing her second shutout in as many days. The right-hander allowed just three hits and struck out four.
Abby Flaig started and took the loss for Midway, allowing four hits and the five unearned runs over 1-2/3 innings.
Skeese finished 3-for-3 in the win for Rio.
On Friday, Rio Grande took home its 20th and 21st consecutive victories by blasting Kentucky Christian, 15-7 and 8-1. The victories improved the RedStorm’s season mark to 32-6.
Kentucky Christian, an independent NAIA school, slipped to 2-16 with the losses.
Rio Grande was in position for a mercy rule-shortened win in both contests, but the Knights scored late in each game to ensure that both went the distance.
The RedStorm sent 15 batters to the plate and scored 11 times in the third inning of the opening game, but KCU pushed across five markers in the home half of the fifth inning to draw within 11-7.
Rio scored twice in each of its final two at bats to set the final score.
Stevens had three hits and drove in two runs to pace the RedStorm offense, while Arndt, Jenkins, Criner, and senior Courtney Walk (Unionville Center, OH) all had two hits each.
Arndt also had three RBI in the victory, while Conkey clubbed a three-run home run and Gregg had a double as part of the 11-run third inning uprising.
Junior Mallory Powell started and pitched into the fifth inning for her fourth win in five decisions. Jones came on to put down the Knights’ fifth inning rally and finished things out to earn her third save.
Whitney McKay started and went the distance in a losing cause for KCU.
Cassie Adkins led the Knights offensively, going 3-for-4 with a home run, two doubles and three RBI. Mackenzie Vanover also had three hits, including a double and a three-run home run.
In the nightcap, Rio Grande parlayed a four-run third inning and a three-run fourth into an 8-0 lead and an eventual easy win.
Stevens had three more hits and drove in two runs, while Criner also had three hits — including a home run and a double – and plated a pair of runs herself.
Conkey contributed two hits and a run batted in to the winning effort, while Gregg added another double.
Conkey earned her 14th win in 15 decisions, allowing two hits and no runs in a scripted three-inning outing. Sophomore Kacee Jenkins (Jackson, OH) tossed a scoreless fourth inning and senior Tiffany Bise (Circleville, OH) allowed one run in three innings of relief.
Adkins had a double and an RBI for KCU, while Jade Spurlock also doubled in a losing cause.
Adkins started and took the loss for the Knights, allowing five runs – only two of which were earned – over three innings.
Rio Grande, who is on the aforementioned 21-game winning streak, hasn’t lost since March 10.
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