After giving up 12 unanswered runs over the final four innings, the Eastern Michigan University softball team earned a split with the Youngstown State University Penguins with a 13-3 loss in game two of Tuesday’s doubleheader at Varsity Field.
“You just have to learn how to mentally close it out,” EMU coach Karen Baird said. “They’ll be fine, we just have to bounce back.”
Missing two key starters (senior third baseman Nellie Coquillard and sophomore second baseman Amanda Stanton) because of a major class project, the Eagles were forced to start freshmen Abby Davidson (third base) and Elaine Whitbeck (second base) for the late afternoon game.
“We had two freshmen starting who don’t usually start, so that was great,” freshman catcher Aoife Duffy said after game two. “Our second baseman [Whitbeck] made an amazing play, so we are very proud of her.”
Senior Jenna Ignowski (L, 6-6) started for EMU (11-26-1). She pitched the first 4 2/3 innings, giving up four earned runs on four hits while walking one and striking out three.
Junior Lauren Wells came in to relieve Ignowski to end the fifth inning. She pitched 1 1/3 innings, giving up two earned runs on three hits while walking two batters and striking out one.
Sophomore Lindsay Rich came in to start the seventh. She gave up seven earned runs on five hits while walking two batters. She did not get out of the inning. Ignowski re-entered the game to finish the top of the seventh.
“I think Jenna did a good job,” Rich said. “She really came out on top, especially coming in and relieving me at the end. It’s nice to have a senior leader like that to kind of look up to.”
For the Penguins (10-17), Casey Crozier got the start. She went six innings, giving up three earned runs on five hits while walking three and striking out three Eagle batters.
Game one starter Kayla Haslett pitched a perfect seventh for Youngstown State, striking out one batter.
In the home half of the first inning, sophomore first baseman Amanda Herron got the scoring started with a two-run single, scoring senior center fielder Courtney Nicholson and freshman third baseman Davidson.
Youngstown State answered with an RBI from its first baseman, Molly Manietta, in the top of the second inning.
Davidson added another run for EMU on a sacrifice fly in the third, scoring senior shortstop Katy Blaharski, which would prove to be the last run of the game for the Eagles.
Youngstown State designated hitter Sarah Ingalls tied the game at 3-3 with a home run to left field off of Ignowski in the fourth inning.
In the fifth inning, with the bases loaded, the Penguins added a run when EMU’s Wells walked Samantha Snodgrass and a sacrifice fly one batter later from Vicky Rumph, making the score 5-3 Youngstown State.
In the seventh inning, things went from bad to worse for EMU. Already up 6-3, the Penguins then scored seven more runs, six of which were credited to Rich, before Ignowski re-entered the game and set down the side.
“I felt like I kind of lost control a little bit,” Rich said about the seventh inning. “But my team was behind me the whole time and that was what got me through it.”
The Eagles are off until Friday when the University of Toledo Rockets come to Varsity Field for a doubleheader. First pitch for game one is scheduled for 1 p.m.
“I think we’re going to bounce back,” Rich said. “I think we’re ready and that we’re going to beat them.”
Follow Al Willman on Twitter: @AlWillmanEcho