Easter weekend was not as sweet as the Knox College softball team was hoping for, but it did end on a very positive note. After dropping both games of a double header against rival Monmouth College and the first of two against Robert Morris College, the Prairie Fire dominated the Eagles 17-6 to finish the weekend 1-3.
In the first game against Monmouth (12-8, 2-0 MWC) sophomore pitcher Amber Eisha looked as if she would control the game early on, getting the Fighting Scots to go three up-three down in the first inning. But Monmouth would jump on Eisha in the second inning, scoring five runs on four hits and an error. Monmouth would tack on two in the third and one in the fourth, more than enough for starting pitcher Alyssa Edler.
Edler held the Prairie Fire to two hits for the game, both singles in the first inning off the bats of Eisha and freshman Rhiannon Neuville-Norton.
In the second game, sophomore Anna Lemen took the mound, but the pitching change had little effect on the Fighting Scots. Monmouth jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, and built on it throughout the rest of the game. Once again the Prairie Fire struggled offensively, ultimately falling 11-0.
“We had some errors to begin with [that] put us in the hole [and] we didn’t do a good job with the bats and getting on base which put us in a tough position,” coach Ashley Sims said.
The next day the Fire hit the road for a two-game set against Robert Morris in Springfield, Ill. Once again, the Prairie Fire were victims of a fast start by their opponent. In the first inning the Eagles took the lead with a two-run homer by Tara Scott.
Outside of the fist Eisha was solid on the mound, giving up three runs on six hits with six strikeouts.
Knox’s only score in the game came in the third inning when a ball off the bat of sophomore Jordan Shaffer was misplayed by the right fielder, allowing junior Jill Krippel to come home from first. The Prairie Fire had an opportunity to tie the game in the seventh after Krippel and senior Amanda Wollrab singled to get the game winning run to the plate, but a pair of Knox groundouts ended the game.
“[We] kind of got started a little late, we didn’t take advantage and let some runners on base, which hurt us,” coach Sims said.
Losing the close game only motivated the Prairie Fire, who turned into an offensive machine in the second game of the double header. Knox opened the scoring with an RBI groundout by sophomore Jenna Butler in the first inning. Robert Morris would answer with two of their own in the first, but Knox responded with a five-run second inning. It would be the first of three four-plus run innings for the Prairie Fire.
Contributions came from throughout the lineup for the Prairie Fire, as every Knox player either notched multiple hits or a run during the game.
“We really turned our hitting on and focused on stringing hits together to move people around the bases and score more runs,” Eisha said.
“It felt good [to see the offense hit a few balls] and definitely boosted our confidence,” Lemen said.
Leading the Prairie Fire were senior Beth McRill (4-4, 5 RBI) and junior Avacena Hollingsworth (2-4, 3 RBI).
“[We] came out in the second game strong with the bats and did well against both of their pitchers and it was nice to see our kids hit the ball, [and] get on base. It was [a] nice way for us to end the day,” coach Sims said.
By finishing last weekend on a high note Knox has built up confidence heading into the toughest stretch of their schedule. The Prairie Fire (4-10, 0-4 MWC) will play all five Midwest Conference North Division teams this weekend at the MWC Crossover Tournament, but Eisha believes the team can overcome the difficult task.
“If we keep that mentality of just putting the ball in play we’ll be solid,” she said.