Saturday, the Bears starved, then got just enough to satisfy themselves.
Hosting Urbana, with a chance to claim sole possession of first place in the AMC South, SSU struggled in the first game of the doubleheader with the Lady Blue Knights, falling 3-1, before getting a couple of key hits in a 5-4 win, salvaging a split at Boone Coleman Field. Coupled with Urbana taking two from Ohio Dominican on Friday, Shawnee, ODU and Urbana are all tied in the loss column in the conference with three losses each. Though the Bears technically in first place with six conference games to go, SSU coach Ralph Cole knew his team could gained more.
“I really didn't want to split (with Urbana),” Cole said. “I knew we were capable of winning both games, but this year has just been a roller coaster season. There have been a half dozen games where I feel we haven't played to our ability.”
One of those games was the first game which was a microcosm of the season. Lori Harmon, second in the AMC with a 1.75 ERA, surrendered two earned runs, but the Bears only crossed the plate once despite getting seven hits. Ashley Adkins and Ali Hull each went 2 for 3 with Hull driving in Adkins for the Bears' only run.
Playing at a consistent level has not come easy for the Bears this season, much like in recent years. Though the team boasts arguably the best pitching duo in the conference in Harmon and Ashley Keen, and some of the most powerful hitters, putting it all together for as prolonged stretch has been a quandary.
Heading into the contest with Urbana, Shawnee State (16-9, 5-3 AMC) was fourth in the conference in ERA, yet had one of the lowest team batting averages at .263, despite showing an ability to explode for runs at any time.
“I can't tell you what I think it is,” said Adkins. “Sometimes, it just doesn't work out. We're not going into a game thinking that we're going to win or we're going to lose (no matter what). We scored nine runs against Cedarville (in one game this season) and they came back (on us).”
Although stringing hits together has been one of the team's inconsistencies, in the second game, the Bears got the hits when they needed them. Tied at 3 in fifth inning, Ashley Adkins dropped an RBI single over the Urbana second baseman, allowing Tammie Jo Coleman to score from second with the go-ahead run.
An inning later, Holly Widder, making her second start as the team's designated hitter, smashed a single down the left field line plating Harmon for a two-run cushion. Widder, who was making her fourth appearance for the Bears, all of them this weekend, is a testament to hard work paying off, said Cole.
The freshman from New Philadelphia has worked her way up the depth chart to gain her starting role.
“She has a really good work habit and she worked her way through the pack,” Cole said. “This kid I give the most credit to. She's been progress all season long and she's solidifying her spot.”
Widder went 2 for 3, her first two hits of her collegiate career, and drove in two RBI on the day.
“I feel like I am being given a shot to do something,” Widder said. “I've just worked hard in practice.”
Keen picked up the win, scattering nine hits. Urbana made one more charge in the seventh, scoring a run with two out, but Keen snagged a line shot with her glove to get the final out.
Coleman, Emily Fuhrmann Adkins, Katie Wade and Harmon all crossed the plate, giving Keen the much-needed run support.
Despite being in a three-way tie in the division, SSU has the toughest road ahead of them. ODU has only one more conference series - against the Bears - left, while Urbana has two. Shawnee must make up three doubleheaders due to the inclement weather in recent weeks. Cole said it's just a chance to show what team is made of.
“You have to have confidence that boarders almost on arrogance,” Cole said. “You have to grab hold and reach for that high peak. That's what true champions do. I don't think they've reached that level yet, but they will.”
JEFF TAEPKE can be reached at (740) 353-3101 ext. 242.
Urbana 111 000 0 - 3 8 0
SSU 000 100 0 - 1 7 1
WP: Chaney. LP: Harmon
Urbana - Mallet 2-4, R; Buckles 2-3, RBI.
SSU - Adkins 2-3, R, Hull 2-3, RBI.
Urbana 000 030 1 - 4 9 0
SSU 000 311 x - 5 9 1
WP: Keen. LP: Cramer.
Urbana - Masur 3-4, 2 RBI.
SSU - Adkins 2-2, R, RBI, Widder 2-3, 2 RBI.
Records - Shawnee State 16-9 (5-3 AMC) Urbana 17-19 (7-3 AMC).