WEST PORTSMOUTH - After waiting nearly three weeks to play its first AMC series, the Shawnee State softball team came out like a house of fire against Malone on Thursday. But as the temperature turned cold, so did the team's offense.
The Bears exploded for eight runs in the doubleheader's first inning, but then proceeded to score only one more run the rest of the way as SSU spilt with the Lady Pioneers at Boone Coleman Field, getting a 9-0, run-ruled win in the first contest, then falling 2-0 in the nightcap.
The series versus Malone was only the second for the Bears since playing in the Snowbird Tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C. in late March. Shawnee had to postpone a number of matchups, including three AMC teams, because of the weather. The Bears finally got back on the diamond last Monday, against Pikeville, after a three-week layoff.
Monday, the Bears seemed eager to compete as the team knocked out Malone's starting pitcher Cori Helm after two-thirds of an inning, due to the offensive onslaught. SSU pounded out five of their 10 hits in the inning, including a pair of two-RBI singles by Ashley Speas and Ashley Keen that quickly put the Bears ahead 5-0.
After Ericka Nickel drove in Speas for a 6-0 lead, that was enough for Malone coach Angela Seders to pull Helm. Ashleigh Ralston pitched another two-thirds of an inning in relief, giving up two more runs. Ashley Adkins went 2 for 3 with an RBI and Nickel scored two runs to go along with a 2 for 3 day at the plate.
The early burst was enough for Lori Harmon, who scattered two hits to pick up her seventh win of the year.
The Lady Pioneers used one more pitcher in the first game, Kathryn Bzdafka, who gave up one run in 2 2/3 innings. Though it was too late for the Lady Pioneers in five-inning game, it was a sign of things to come for the second contest. Despite giving up 10 hits, Bzdafka did not allow an SSU batter to cross the plate, and got out of two jams late to give Malone (6-14) the win. In the fifth inning, the Lady Bears had a runner on third after a single by Speas and a double by Emily Fuhrmann with one out. Adkins got a single, but Nickel was gunned down at the plate to preserve the shutout. In the sixth, Shawnee got the first two batters on, but the next three popped up to the shortstop to end the threat.
The Bears had one more chance in the seventh with a runner on third, but Bzdafka ended the game striking out Ali Hull to get the split.
Shawnee State (12-7, 1-1 AMC) will be back home on Saturday against Walsh.
JEFF TAEPKE can be reached at (740) 353-3101 ext. 242.