HUNTINGTON, Ind. - In an MCC clash of two top teams vying to remain unblemished in league play, the HU softball team split with Indiana Wesleyan University Tuesday afternoon to send each team away with their first conference loss.
The Wildcats escaped game one with a 3-2 win before the Foresters bounced back to claim a nine-inning 5-4 come-from-behind win.
It was a pitcher's duel in game one as both hurlers combined for only nine hits and one earned run but in the end it was Molly Long who came up short on the scoreboard. She gave up three runs, one earned, on five hits and one walk while fanning four.
The first two innings came and went without a hit but the Wildcats' bats came to life in the top of the third as they opened the inning with back-to-back singles and then eventually plated a run on a well-executed double steal to give IWU a 1-0 advantage.
After another uneventful pair of innings, both teams came alive offensively in the sixth. After a base poke and costly dropped fly landed runners on second and third, IWU smacked a double to score two unearned runs and extend their lead to 3-0.
But a resilient Forester squad didn't go down without a fight. Kaitlyn Troyer started things off by drawing a base on balls, Peyton Klinkhamer singled to third and Katie Bowers drew the inning's second walk to load the bases. It was déjà vu from earlier in the inning as a misplayed fly ball resulted in two unearned runs in favor of HU this time to pull them within one at 3-2 after six innings of play.
After holding the Wildcats scoreless in their last at-bats, HU threatened again in the bottom of the seventh. Cristin Carter singled to left and Klinkhamer followed suit with single to short but HU came up empty as both runners were left stranded to squelch any hope of a heroic comeback.
Klinkhamer was the lone Forester to register multiple hits with two while three other Foresters tallied a base hit in the losing effort.
Fans got their monies worth in the nightcap as both teams hammered out ten hits to extend the game into extra innings.
Haunted by several first game errors, the Foresters made sure history didn't repeat itself as they returned the favor to benefit from several key Wildcat errors to steal the win.
Klinkhamer continued to light it up at the plate by going 3-for-5. Bowers cranked out two hits to drive in three runs while Amy Snider doubled in a run.
HU jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first. After Klinkhamer singled to short, Bowers crushed one over the left field fence for her fourth homerun of the season.
The next four innings belonged to the Wildcats as they outscored the Foresters 4-0 to take a 4-2 lead after five innings of play.
With momentum clearly favoring the visitors, the Foresters weren't ready to wave the white flag. Brita Kuiper gave the HU hopefuls something to cheer about in the bottom of the sixth when she singled to short and made her way home thanks to back-to-back Wildcat errors to close the gap to one at 4-3. Snider then capped off the rally with her run scoring double to deadlock the score at 4-4 and send the game into extra innings.
After trading hitless innings in the seventh and eighth, HU finally gained the advantage in the bottom of the ninth. With two outs, pinch hitter Kendra DeRoo came up big with a single to left and Klinkhamer pounded out a double to put base runners on second and third and set the stage for Bowers who didn't disappoint. She delivered with a shot that rickashayed off the glove of IWU's shortstop for the game-winning RBI-single.
“I believe Kendra deserves props for her effort today,” noted Coach Gower. “We needed someone to spark us and Kendra did just that. We had been flat, and went down quietly for the first two outs of the inning. I decided to pinch hit Kendra for Brandi. She hadn't played the entire doubleheader and was called on to contribute. She came up swinging and promptly hit a hard line drive that got us excited. Peyton followed up with another well placed two out double, setting up Bowers‘ hard smash. It takes a full team to win against good teams. Kendra is a great example of a kid who takes full advantage of her opportunities and does everything she can for the good of the team.”
Marcie McDougle got the start for HU but it was Long who came in on relief to log the win. She pitched the final 4.1 innings and gave up one hit and one walk while striking out three.
The Foresters (15-7, 3-1) travel to Goshen College on Thursday for a 3:00 p.m. doubleheader.