Carly Skeese and Kelsey Conkey hit home runs as part of a seven-run second inning helping the University of Rio Grande to a 9-0 mercy rule-shortened game two win and a doubleheader sweep of Brescia University, Saturday afternoon, in River States Conference softball action at Marshall University’s Dot Hicks Field.
The RedStorm posted a 2-1 triumph in the opener of the twinbill, which was designated as the RSC’s Softball Games of the Week.
Rio Grande, ranked No. 24 in the latest NAIA coaches poll, pushed its winning streak to 11 straight games while running its record to 22-6 overall and 6-0 in the RSC.
Brescia slipped to 10-12 overall and 4-2 in league play.
Skeese, a sophomore from Newark, Ohio, hit a three-run home run – her team-best sixth of the season — and Conkey — a sophomore from Minford, Ohio – tacked on a two-run blast of her own as Rio sent 11 batters to plate in the second inning against three Bearcat pitchers.
Skeese finished 2-for-3.
Conkey, the starting pitcher in game two, also helped her own cause with a sacrifice fly in the first inning as the RedStorm jumped to an early 2-0 lead.
Senior Alex Stevens (Oak Hill, OH) had a two-run single to plate the first two markers in the second inning onslaught.
Conkey, who improved to 8-1 on the season, allowed a leadoff infield single to Megan Myers, but allowed only one more baserunner the rest of the way – a one-out single by Courtney Klueppel in the fourth inning. Klueppel was erased moments later when Rachel Tanner lined into an inning-ending double-play.
Allison Russell started and took the loss for Brescia.
Game one was a much tighter affair as Rio senior Jenna Jones (Lancaster, OH) and Brescia’s Shelby Franklin locked into a pitcher’s duel.
The Bearcats grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth.
Morgan Manning was hit by a pitch with one out, but was forced out on Brooke Whipple fielder’s choice grounder to second. Whipple ended up at second base, though, as a result of a throwing error and later scored after a single by Abi Duncan and a passed ball.
Rio Grande tied the game in the bottom of the frame when Stevens led off with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Skeese and scored on single by junior Tayler Arndt (Clyde, OH).
The RedStorm took the lead in the fifth when, with the bases loaded and one out, Arndt hit a grounder to third which forced senior Cheyenne Hamaker (Hilliard, OH) at home but Duncan’s throw to first in an attempt to complete a double-play hit Arndt in the leg and ricocheted into right-center field, allowing Stevens to score the go-ahead marker.
Jones (6-3) retired the side in order in the sixth and seventh innings to nail down her sixth consecutive victory. She finished with a three-hitter and struck out five.
Stevens finished with two hits in the win, while junior Gabby Gregg (Ashville, OH) added a double.
Myers had two of Brescia’s three hits.
Franklin (6-4) allowed six hits and walked four in a complete-game effort.
Rio Grande returns to action Sunday afternoon, hosting Indiana University-Southeast in another doubleheader scheduled for Dot Hicks Field in Huntington.
Brescia finishes its weekend road swing on Sunday at WVU-Tech.
With her latest display on the mound, Conkey continued to improve on an outstanding campaign that will have the sophomore in contention for NAIA All-America honors. The redshirt sophomore heads the pitching staff in earned-run-average (1.12), wins (10), complete games (seven) and shutouts (three) and is tied for the team lead in games started (10), earned runs allowed (11), batting average against (.183) and wild pitches (zero).
At the plate, Conkey raised her average to a .305 mark. The Minford, Ohio native is second on the unit in RBI, with 20, and is tied for second on the team with two home runs.