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Softball splits six

The+softball+team+split+their+last+four+games+of+conference+play+and+currently+lead+the+University+Athletic+Association.+++
The softball team split their last four games of conference play and currently lead the University Athletic Association.

The softball team split their last four games of conference play and currently lead the University Athletic Association.

Leah Trznadel/Observer

Leah Trznadel/Observer

The softball team split their last four games of conference play and currently lead the University Athletic Association.

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What happens when two evenly matched teams face off in a four-game series?

As it turns out, four close games. The Case Western Reserve University softball team traveled to Missouri and took two of four from Washington University in St. Louis (WashU) in a weekend series. All four games were decided by two runs or fewer with two games going ten innings.

“Both mentally and physically, it takes a lot out of you,” said Head Coach Josie Henry. “It’s an epic series against WashU.

The the team returned home on Tuesday, April 18 and split a doubleheader with the University of Mount Union. With just eight games left on the schedule, the team has a 17-12 record and leads the University Athletic Association with 7-6 mark in conference play.

The Spartans got off to an inauspicious start in the first game. The offense managed just three hits against Bears’ starting pitcher Anna McKee. For just the second time this season, the team was shut out, losing 2-0. Fourth-year starter pitcher Annie Wennerberg took the hard luck loss, pitching six innings and only surrendering one earned run.

The second game was much more exciting for Spartans’ fans, though it took much longer to get to it than expected. The teams sat out a rain delay with two outs in the seventh, as the Bears’ pitcher could barely hold onto the ball.

The team took a 2-0 lead after scoring a run in both the second and third innings. First-year third baseman Melissa Cuellar and third-year second baseman Maren Waldner each contributed run-scoring singles. The Bears responded with two runs in the bottom of the third to tie the score. The score would remain tied for the next six innings as both pitching staffs excelled.

In the top of the 10th inning, the third extra frame of the day, the Spartans manufactured a run. To lead off the inning, first-year outfielder Emily Nishiwaki laid down a perfect bunt to move first-year infielder Caitlin Smith, who had been placed on second, over to third. Third-year outfielder Katie Wede lined a fly ball to left field that was deep enough for a sacrifice fly to score the go-ahead run.

Henry said the team has an altruistic attitude in the extra frames.

She said, “I think [the approach] is just doing what the team needs…You’re just looking to manufacture runs…We’re definitely not a team that just sits around and waits for home runs.”

Wennerberg closed out the game by stranding two runners on base, sealing the win for the Spartans.

The second day played out similarly to the first, with CWRU dropping the first game but winning the second in 10 innings.

The team fought hard in the first game, coming back from a two-run deficit in the seventh inning. Cuellar and first-year outfielder Callie Wang both hit sacrifice flies to tie the score at three. Unfortunately, Wennerberg gave up three straight hits in the bottom half of the inning as the Bears took game one 4-3.

Nishiwaki led the offense, collecting two of the Spartans’ four hits. Both of her hits did not leave the infield. Henry said, “She’s just finding ways to get on base. For her, small ball is a big part of [her game].”

The final game was the highest scoring contest of the weekend, with CWRU prevailing 8-7 in 10 innings.

Getting things started right off the bat, the team scored two runs in the top of the first to take an early lead. Waldner hit a sacrifice fly and second-year shortstop Nicole Doyle hit a run-scoring double.

The Bears came back with four runs in the third inning, but the Spartans responded with three runs of their own in the next inning to retake the lead. Doyle contributed another double, this time scoring two runs, after Smith scored on an error. After Wennerberg came in to pitch the bottom of the inning, WashU took the lead again, scoring two more runs to make the score 6-5.

With their backs against the walls, the Spartans tied the score in the seventh inning as Doyle hit a solo home run to lead off the inning. The team’s leader in hitting, Doyle finished the day 4 for 5 with four RBIs.
Yet again, it took until the 10th inning for the tie to be broken. Third-year first baseman Grace Tritchler launched a two run homerun to left field to lead off the inning. With a two run lead, the Spartans could afford giving up a run in the bottom half of the inning. After WashU scored once, Wennerberg struck out the next batter and induced a groundout to end the game. Over the weekend, she pitched 22 of the Spartans’ 32 innings giving up just five earned runs for a 1.59 ERA.

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Softball splits six