The Shawnee State softball program continued to show its rapid improvement under head coach Steve Whittaker as the Bears played some of its best softball of the entire season in a victory over Pikeville in the opening round of the Mid-South Conference Tournament before falling in two tightly contested affairs against Lindsey Wilson and Georgetown to see its season come to a close.
On Friday afternoon, the Bears began their tournament journey in strong fashion by rallying for three runs in the bottom of the sixth to win 4-1 over No. 5-seeded Pikeville.
Shawnee State used small ball to open the scoring in the bottom of the second inning as Marisa Brown (SO/Liberty Township, Ohio) and Mackenzie Riley (SO/Proctorville, Ohio) used back-to-back singles to get the inning started. After a Katie Wolsefer (FR/Franklin, Ohio) groundout advanced both baserunners, Haley Rawlins (FR/South Point, Ohio) drove in Brown in with a RBI groundout to put Shawnee State in front, 1-0.
The score remained at 1-0 until the top of the sixth inning, when Pikeville’s Jillian Bohnert hit a solo home run on the first pitch of her at-bat to tie the game at one, but Shawnee State stayed in the gas and rallied in the bottom of the sixth inning for three runs.
Ashtyn Saunders (FR/Lancaster, Ohio) led off the inning with a bunt single, and, after advancing all the way to third on a wild throw and a bobbled ball, scored on a passed ball by Destiny Molden to give SSU the lead back. Katlyn Gleich (SO/Grove City, Ohio) then singled, and pinch runner Victoria Bevington (FR/London, Ohio) stole second base. Kayla Koch (JR/Lucasville, Ohio) followed with a walk, and both runners moved up a base on a wild pitch by Hannah Skaggs. Tara Duncan (SR/Lancaster, Ohio) then singled to third to load the bases with nobody out.
After a flyout by Brown, Mackenzie Riley reached base on an error by Jordan Gentry, allowing Bevington to score. Two batters later, Miranda Melvin (SR/Oak Hill, Ohio) was hit by a pitch, allowing pinch runner Madi Phillips (SO/Portsmouth, Ohio) to score SSU’s fourth run as the Bears put the game away.
Brooke Blevins (FR/Frankfort, Ohio) was outstanding for Shawnee State, as the second team All-MSC pitcher allowed only one run on six hits and struck out five in six innings to get the win. Hannah Skaggs allowed four runs on six hits in five and one-third innings of play to take the loss. A perfect inning of relief by McKenzie Whittaker (SO/McDermott, Ohio) would earn the sophomore the save.
In its second contest on Friday evening, Shawnee State gave top-seeded Lindsey Wilson top run before falling to the Blue Raiders, 3-1, to fall to the loser’s bracket in the MSC Tournament.
The Blue Raiders struck first as Shawnee State put up two runs in the bottom of the second. With two outs, Abby Whelan and Lauren Lett connected on back-to-back singles to put runners on first and second, and Cassie Kooker followed by nailing a double to the outfield in driving both Whelan and Lett in. Lindsey Wilson loaded the bases against Blevins, but the freshman got out of the inning to keep the score 2-0.
While the Bears struck back in the top of the third behind Wolsefer’s solo home run, Lindsey Wilson starter Casey Bryan held the Bears in check for the rest of the afternoon, with Shawnee State unable to score again. Lindsey Wilson added a run in the bottom of the fourth on a Sydney Fourman RBI single to give the Blue Raiders the winning margin.
Bryan threw all seven innings for Lindsey Wilson, allowing only one run on two hits and striking out a dozen to get the win. Blevins allowed three runs on nine hits in five innings to get hit with the loss.
With Shawnee State needing to win out to keep its season alive, the Bears fought hard for eight solid innings before falling to a tough Georgetown squad in a thrilling affair.
After the Tigers opened the scoring on Chaselyn Allgeier’s triple, Chelsae Osborn’s RBI single, and Sydney Goyette’s solo home run, Shawnee State managed to cut the lead in half as Brown singled, advanced to second base on a fielder’s choice, and, after advancing to third on a sacrifice bunt, scored on a passed ball to cut the Georgetown lead to a 2-1 margin.
Even though Georgetown got the run back in the bottom of the second, Shawnee State followed by rallying to take the lead.
In the top of the third, Saunders reached first on a hit by pitch and got to second when Osborn misplayed a grounder by Gleich. Koch then singled to load the bases, and Saunders scored on Brown’s fielder’s choice to make the score 3-2.
The Bears then continued the rally in the fifth inning, as Saunders led off the inning by bunting and reaching on an error by Kara Howard. Gleich then moved Saunders to second with a bunt, and after a pop-out, Brown singled in Saunders to tie the game at three. Brown then followed by advancing on a wild pick-off throw, and Tara Duncan singled to left field to drive in Phillips as SSU took a 4-3 lead.
Unfortunately, the lead wouldn’t last as Georgetown rallied for a run in the bottom of the sixth. After an Allison Watson single and a Hannah Morton double to put runners on second and third with nobody out, Janes followed with her second RBI base knock of the affair to tie the score. Brooke Blevins (FR/Frankfort, Ohio) worked around the bases loaded jam to keep the score tied.
The game headed to extra innings with the score notched at 4-4 before Georgetown walked off in the eighth. With two outs, Hannah Howes would walk and would get to second on Janes’ single. Allgeier then hit a single to drive in Howes and end Shawnee State’s season.
Audrey Dodd allowed four runs on five hits in eight innings of work to take the win. Brooke Blevins allowed five runs on 14 hits in seven and two-thirds innings to get hit with the loss.
Even with the latter pair of defeats, Shawnee State’s 24-24 record was a 13-win improvement over last season. The Bears also improved their Mid-South Conference record from 4-20 in 2015-16 to 12-12 in 2016-17. The 24-24 overall record is the best for the Shawnee State softball program over the last three years.