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Huntington opens conference schedule against Spring Arbor

by Eric Andrews - eandrews@h-ponline.com

The Huntington University softball team returned to the Midwest to open their Crossroads League schedule with a pair of games against Spring Arbor after spending their spring break in Tucson, Arizona, last week.

Originally slated to be a home doubleheader, the games were moved to Spring Arbor with the Foresters’ field not being in playable condition.

In game one, Huntington claimed a dominant 7–1 win, while the Cougars responded for a 5–1 victory in game two. The split pushed the Foresters’ record to 5–7 and started their conference campaign at 1–1.

Huntington got out to a quick 1–0 lead in the top of the first inning, as junior left fielder Karley Blankenship doubled to start the game before advancing to third on a sacrifice bunt by freshman right fielder Denaia Rice. A double by sophomore first baseman Paige Eichelberger two batters later brought in Blankenship to put the Foresters ahead 1–0.

However, Spring Arbor answered right back in the bottom half on the opening frame to tie the score at 1–1 on a rare play of stealing home plate.

No runs were scored in innings two or three, but the fourth inning started what would be a dominant stretch for Huntington.

After starting the inning with an out, the next two Foresters reached to put runners on first and second with one away. Two hitters later, sophomore first baseman Jada Crofoot singled to right field to bring in Eichelberger to give Huntington a 2–1 lead.

Though the Foresters would go on to load the bases later in the inning, the Cougars escaped with no further damage done.

Despite missing out on a chance to blow the game open in the fourth, Huntington tacked on another run in the fifth as Eichelberger doubled to score Rice and double the Foresters’ lead to two runs at 3–1.

Huntington’s offense was just getting started, as the Foresters added two more runs in the sixth inning compliments of two-run bomb by Crofoot to extend the Huntington lead to 5–1. Crofoot’s home run also scored sophomore third baseman Kennedy Krull.

The Foresters weren’t done yet, as they tallied two more runs in the top of the seventh inning with RBIs from Krull and freshman catcher Kiera Stacy to score sophomore pinch runner Rozlynn Everhart and sophomore center fielder Sophia Beachy, respectively, to extend the Huntington lead to a commanding 7–1 mark.

Sophomore pitcher Meghan Fretz went the distance for the Foresters, tossing all seven innings en route to the win, allowing just three hits and one run while striking out two Cougars.

Game two proved to be the opposite of the series opener, as Spring Arbor pounced on Huntington early and often, grabbing a sizable 4–0 lead after the first inning of play, with three of the runs coming via a long ball by the Cougars’ Sydney Taylor after the Foresters failed to break through with the bases loaded in the top of the inning.

Huntington got on the board in the top of the third thanks to a home run by Rice to left field, but that would be all the offense the Foresters would get the rest of the way.

Spring Arbor tacked on another run in the fifth inning to expand their lead to 5–1, which would be the final score of the game with no more runs scored in the sixth or seventh innings.

Sophomore pitcher Mallory West got the start on the mound for Huntington and pitched five innings while giving up seven hits and five runs, striking out three Cougar batters along the way.

Freshman pitcher Anna Weigold came on in relief to pitch the sixth inning and tossed a spotless frame with one strikeout.

The Foresters will return to action today for their first action of the season in Huntington, hosting Mt. Vernon Nazarene in a Crossroads League doubleheader. First pitch for game one is scheduled for 3 p.m., with game two to follow. The Foresters will also host a conference doubleheader on Wednesday against No. 10 Indiana Wesleyan, which is set to begin at 3 p.m.