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Foresters finish week in Arizona

by Eric Andrews - eandrews@h-ponline.com

The Huntington University softball team wrapped their week in Tucson, Arizona, at the Tucson Invitational Games on Wednesday with four games against NCAA Division III opponents, with two coming on Wednesday and two on Thursday.

In Wednesday’s first game, the Foresters were edged 5–4 in eight innings by Central and then cruised to a 12–2 victory over MacMurray in the second game of the day. On Thursday, Huntington defeated Augsburg 5–4 before falling by the same score to Wisconsin-Platteville later in the day.

The games pushed Huntington’s season record to 4–6, including a 4–4 mark at the Tucson Invitational Games.

Central got out to a quick start in the first game of the day, scoring a pair of runs in the top of the first inning to grab a 2–0 lead.

The Foresters answered in the bottom of the first, as junior left fielder Karley Blankenship started the Huntington offense with a single and ultimately scored off a RBI groundout by junior shortstop Joelle Beals to cut the Dutch lead to 2–1.

The score would remain until the bottom half of the fourth, when the Foresters evened the score at 2–2 thanks to a triple by senior second baseman Marty Harris to plate sophomore third baseman Kennedy Krull.

However, Central responded with a run in the top of the fifth to regain a one-run lead at 3–2.

With their backs against the wall, Huntington came through in the bottom of the seventh inning, as Harris scored on a RBI single by Beals to tie the score at 3–3, sending the game to extra innings.

The Dutch came out flying in the eighth inning and tallied two runs on one play to take hold of a 5–3 lead.

The Foresters got one run back early in the bottom of the eighth when sophomore pitcher Mallory West singled to center field to bring in sophomore center fielder Sophia Beachy to narrow the gap to 5–4.

Huntington threatened to tie the game later in the frame, as West eventually got to third base with just one out. However, on the next at-bat, Harris grounded into a double play to seal a 5–4 extra-innings triumph for Central.

Sophomore pitcher Meghan Fretz went the distance in the loss, throwing eight innings for Huntington. Fretz allowed five hits and two earned runs while striking out a pair of Dutch batters.

In game two, the Foresters’ fortunes were significantly different, as Huntington stormed out to a commanding 6–0 lead in the first inning thanks to a barrage of hits by the Forester offense and a trio of errors by the Highlander defense.

The Foresters quickly found themselves with the bases loaded with no outs in the top of the first and capitalized, scoring each of the three runners on the next three at-bats. By the time the Highlanders recorded the second out of the inning, Huntington had already scored five runs and added the sixth on a fielding error later in the frame.

The Foresters refused to back down as the game continued, tacking on three more runs in both the second and third innings to grab hold of a dominant 12–0 advantage after three innings.

MacMurray got on the board with two runs in the top of the fourth, but that would be the closest the Highlanders would get, as they could not score in the fifth inning, resulting in a mercy-rule 12–2 win for Huntington after five innings.

West started the game on the mound for the Foresters and tossed two innings while giving up two hits. West struck out one MacMurray batter.

Freshman pitcher Anna Weigold came on in relief to close out the game for Huntington by pitching three innings while allowing four hits and two runs.

Despite scoring 12 runs, the Foresters accumulated just six RBIs in the game, as the other six runs came via Highlander errors.

Beachy, Blankenship, Krull, sophomore first baseman Jada Crofoot, freshman center fielder Denaia Rice and freshman catcher Kiera Stacy all tallied RBIs in the Huntington victory.

Beals, Blankenship, Rice, sophomore first baseman Paige Eichelberger and sophomore right fielder Hannah Shoupe all scored two runs apiece for the Foresters, while Beachy and sophomore left fielder Rozlynn Everhart each added one run to comprise the Huntington run scoring.

The 12 runs scored by the Foresters were the most the team had tallied since a 15–2 thrashing of Spring Arbor on April 29, 2017.

In Huntington’s game against Augsburg, things appeared to be headed for a low-scoring game, as just one hit was recorded over the first two innings.

However, the Auggies finally broke the trend by igniting for three runs in the top of the third to grab a 3–0 lead. The Foresters answered with a run of their own in the bottom half of the inning off a double by Rice to score Stacy, cutting the Augsburg advantage to 3–1.

Things remained silent throughout the fourth inning, but both offenses got going again in the fifth, as the Auggies tacked on another run to extend their lead to 4–1.

Despite giving up the run in the top half of the inning, Huntington quickly went to work erasing the deficit in the bottom of the fifth. Freshman utility player Megan Prater and Harris both found themselves on base with one out before Blankenship knocked a single into left field to score Prater and bring the score to 4–2.

Two batters later, Beals drove a hit up the middle to score Harris to cut the Augsburg lead to 4–3. In the next at-bat, Beals swiped second base, which proved to be a big play as the inning progressed. A passed ball allowed Blankenship to cross home plate and send Beals to third base, tying the score at 4–4, before a wild pitch later in the inning brought home Beals to give the Foresters their first lead of the game at 5–4.

Huntington’s defense shut down the Auggies the rest of the way, not allowing a hit over the final two innings to seal the 5–4 victory for the Foresters.

Fretz pitched all seven innings for Huntington, giving up six hits and two earned runs while fanning six Augsburg batters.

The Foresters concluded their week in Tucson with a disappointing 5–4 defeat to Wisconsin-Platteville.

Huntington held a three-run lead at one point in the game before seeing their advantage evaporate before their eyes in what became a walk-off win for the Pioneers.

The Foresters mustered just five hits throughout the game, with Beachy and Krull each recording two hits and one RBI in the contest to guide Huntington’s offense.

West returned to the mound for the Foresters in the game, but allowed 12 hits and five runs while striking out four Pioneers.

Huntington played a doubleheader against Spring Arbor on Saturday, but results were not available as of The Herald-Press’s deadline.

The Foresters will return to action with a home doubleheader against Mt. Vernon Nazarene on Tuesday. First pitch for game one is scheduled for 3 p.m.