Shepherd Softball Shines on Senior Day

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The Rams (35-18, 21-11 MEC) came through Sunday afternoon in a home double-header against the Golden Eagles (33-20, 22-10 MEC) of Charleston on Senior Day. Game one ended in a thrilling three-run walk-off seventh inning for the Rams in their 6-5 win, while game two was more in hand with a 6-2 score.

After a RBI single down the right field line by first baseman Laura Ashlock that gave the Golden Eagles a 1-0 lead going into the bottom of the first inning, the Rams responded with three runs in the bottom of the inning.

Senior pitcher/outfielder Paige Buckworth got to first base thanks to an error by the Golden Eagles’ shortstop. As a consequence of the play, senior third/first baseman Alexandra Witt and junior utility player Sarah North flew around the bases and score a pair of unearned runs to give the Rams a 2-1 lead.

However, the Rams’ offense would stall from there on, as the Golden Eagles’ offense came alive themselves. Shortstop Monica Carter had a RBI double and single in the top of the fifth and seventh innings, respectively, to carry the Golden Eagles to a 5-3 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh and final inning.

Needing to mount a comeback on Senior Day, it was fitting that all levels of underclassmen contributed to send off the Rams’ seniors in thrilling fashion. Junior outfielder Jessica Robinson came through with a RBI single to bring in sophomore first/third baseman Connor Gilligan to cut the lead to 5-4.

Sophomore shortstop/outfielder Kaitlyn Konopka also delivered a clutch RBI single to bring in sophomore pitcher Lori Sturgill to tie the game at 5-5.

Then, on a fielder’s choice, freshman infielder Debbie Stuart hustled and reached first base. In the process, Konopka scored the winning run and the Rams walked away with a 6-5 victory.

Senior starting pitcher Tara Hanson (W, 18-5) may not have had her best performance (7.0 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO), but had the support of her teammates, who came through when it mattered most.

Starting pitcher Alli Burdette really had a nice outing for the Golden Eagles (6.0 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 1 SO), but just could not close out the game.

In game two, the game was not nearly as stressful for the Rams with their 6-2 victory.

However, early on the game was very tight and tense. The Golden Eagles got on the board first in the top of the first inning with a RBI double to right field by catcher Haleigh Christopher and a RBI single up the middle by Ashlock, who proved to be trouble for the Rams all day.

The 2-0 lead would quickly dissipate for the Golden Eagles, however, who could not find a way to finish off the Rams all day. In the bottom of the first inning, Stuart grounded out to third base, but recorded a RBI as Konopka scored the Rams’ first run on the play.

Gilligan would tie the game at 2-2 by sprinting to first base and an off target throw by the Golden Eagles’ third baseman. During the play, North rounded third and headed home to tie the game.

Sophomore starting pitcher Lori Sturgill (W, 9-3) really shut down the Golden Eagles’ offense after struggling some in the first inning. Sturgill (7.0 IP, 2 R, 2 ER, 6 H, 1 BB, 4 SO) surrendered just three hits the final six innings after allowing three in the first inning. It was clear she made the needed adjustments.

The Rams would also give her run support, coming largely from the bat of senior third/first baseman Alexandra Witt. In the bottom of the fourth inning, with the game still tied at 2-2, Witt displayed her senior leadership by smacking a double to left field that brought in Konopka and sophomore second baseman/shortstop Morgan Cox to give the Rams a 4-2 lead.

Witt would finish with two more RBI on the day, as she singled to right center field in the bottom of the sixth inning to again drive home Konopka and Robinson to cement the Rams’ 6-2 victory and sweep on Senior Day.

Starting pitcher Jessie Rowe took the loss for the Golden Eagles. She lasted 5.1 innings, giving up 11 hits, six runs (four earned), walked none, and struck out four.

The MEC tournament is next on the horizon for the Rams on Friday. It is not known at this time who they will face.

Anthony Bracken is the Sports Editor of The Picket. He can be reached at abrack02@rams.shepherd.edu