The Shawnee State softball program clinched a fourth-place finish in the Mid-South Conference regular season standings on Saturday afternoon as Steve Whittaker’s ballclub capped off a season of rapid improvement by sweeping Cumberland (Tenn.) by winning game one 13-6 and game two 8-7.
The Bears scored three runs in the top of the first to immediately take control. Kayla Koch singled home Ashtyn Saunders after Shawnee State loaded the bases to start the affair. Tara Duncan then followed by hitting a sacrifice fly to left field to drive in Katlyn Gleich, and Marisa Brown scored on Katie Wolsefer’s fielder’s choice.
SSU then broke the game open with five runs in the second as Brown knocked in Saunders with a single and was followed by three more RBI singles by Duncan, Mackenzie Riley and Wolsefer, with Riley’s base knock driving in two runs by itself.
Cumberland got two runs back in the bottom half of the second, but SSU answered by getting one of those runs back in the top of the third. Saunders then scored her third run of the game on Kayla Koch’s RBI double to left field.
The Phoenix then put together a run in the fifth and two more in the bottom of the sixth to narrow the score to 9-4, but Shawnee State left no doubt behind its four-run frame in the top of the seventh. SSU loaded the bases again, and Koch singled home Victoria Bevington. Duncan and Riley obtained back-to-back RBI walks, and Haley Rawlins drove in another with a walk. Cumberland scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh but could not overcome the huge deficit.
Brooke Blevins threw a complete game, allowing six runs on 15 hits while striking out eight to get the win. Kaitlin Kralj would allow eight runs on eight hits in 1.1 innings to take the loss.
Game two was the most competitive of the entire series as Shawnee State would lose an early lead. Marisa Brown would single in Ashtyn Saunders to give SSU a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but Tessa Tomaselli and Courtney Miles would each get RBI singles to give Cumberland a 2-1 lead after one inning.
The bottom of the second was even better for Cumberland as they scored four more runs to extend the lead. Tyra Graham drove in two runs with an RBI single, Imani Torregano followed by driving in Graham when Ashtyn Saunders made a wild throw, and Shae Dunn capped off the inning by driving in Torregano with a single to make the score 6-1.
Shawnee State then mounted an incredible comeback in the top of the third, scoring six runs to retake the lead. Brown singled in Saunders again and moved Gleich to third with a single, which was followed by a two-run double to left by Kayla Koch. After Miranda Melvin reached base, Bevington drove in Koch and moved Melvin to second with a single. Wolsefer then reached base on an error by Cumberland left fielder Ashley Wilson that allowed Melvin and Bevington to score SSU’s fifth and sixth runs of the inning and make the score 7-6.
Neither team scored again until the bottom of the sixth, when Torragano reached base on an error and, following a sacrifice bunt, reached home on Shae Dunn’s RBI single to make the score 7-7.
However, Shawnee State wasn’t to be denied, as the Bears scored the winning run in the top of the seventh. Katlyn Gleich led off the inning by reaching on an error by Cumberland shortstop Tyra Graham, and reached second on Brown’s walk. Koch then got the clutch hit, singling to center to drive in Gleich.
McKenzie Whittaker went the distance in game two for Shawnee State, allowing seven runs on eight hits, with only two of the runs being earned, and striking out three in seven innings to get the win. Nicole Pratt would allow one run on three hits in four innings of relief to take the loss.
The wins improve Shawnee State’s record to 21-16 overall, and the Bears finish the Mid-South Conference comfortably in fourth place with a record of 12-12 in the league. Cumberland is now 15-31-1 and 2-22 in the league.
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