PORTSMOUTH —Behind excellent pitching performances from Minford native Madison Sifford and Rosemount standout Hannah Oliver — along with timely hitting from Ashton Rankin, Andrea Little and Kylie Ray among others — the softball program at Shawnee State was able to claim a pair of nonconference victories over Kentucky Christian on Wednesday evening with 2-0 and 5-0 wins over the Knights at Portsmouth High School.
With the victories, Shawnee State moved to 7-3 overall.
The Bears posted 15 hits combined between the two affairs, including 10 in the second game alone, en route to the victory.
Sifford, defense rock solid for SSU in Game 1
In Wednesday’s opener, Shawnee State received another strong pitching performance from Sifford, who allowed just three hits and averaged just 12.4 pitches per inning in the Bears’ 2-0 victory.
The freshman took home her fourth winning decision in her fifth contest inside the circle this season.
Defensively, Shawnee State was flawless in the opener, not committing a single error in the contest.
The finest play in the Bears’ gem of a defensive effort came from Ashtyn Saunders, who robbed Bailey Caster of a basehit down the left field line by diving to her right and making a fantastic catch right on the foul line.
Rankin comes through in critical fourth in Game 1
Prior to the bottom of the fourth inning, the Bears had suffered through their own offensive woes as Shawnee State was only able to obtain one extra-base hit — a double by Sunterius Armstrong in the second frame — and left the bases loaded in the third.
However, nine-hole hitter Rankin came through in a big way.
Following a leadoff single by Haley Rawlins, Rankin followed Rawlins’ efforts with a two-out RBI-triple to dead center, which scored Rawlins and changed the complexion of the game.
That base hit kept the inning alive, and was followed by a critical error that allowed Rankin to score.
The sophomore went 2-for-2 with her RBI-triple and run scored in the fourth, and added a walk to boot to help lift the SSU offense past its early struggles.
Bears strong from start to finish in Game 2 offensively
In the second contest, Shawnee State wasted no time jumping all over Kentucky Christian.
Saunders’ leadoff single in the first inning was followed by an RBI-double from Kalle Coleman, and the cleanup hitter in Game 2, Camryn Alexander, followed with an RBI-single to center field to plate a second run as Shawnee State added on to its advantage.
Still up by the same margin heading into the fifth frame, SSU added insurance runs as Coleman’s leadoff bunt and a one-out single by Sunetrius Armstrong led to a two-out baseknock for Little that scored Coleman.
Ray then added a two-out, two-RBI single to right center field to score both Armstrong and Little to help put the game away.
Oliver maintains steady SSU pitching pace
Known for her strong command of her pitches, Oliver displayed that fact time and again in her five-hitter in Game 2.
The freshman struck out four batters and walked only two on 120 pitches in the victory, and worked out of a key bases-loaded jam in the top half of the second by obtaining three groundouts around the damage to get out of trouble.
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