Sports / The Prairie Fire / April 16, 2009

Softball still searching

A hard stretch of four doubleheaders in six days, including six games in three days, was an effort that ultimately came up short for the Knox softball team. Facing Eureka College in a final tune-up before conference play began, the ladies of the diamond dropped both games, 7-5 in eight innings and 2-1, before hosting Grinnell on Friday the 10th, losing 2-1 and 11-2. Saturday saw the Fire take a trip down the road to see the Scots, but ultimately the women in kilts won both ends, a 12-0 shelling and a 13-7 shootout. Tuesday the 14th saw Robert Morris come to town for another non-conference matchup, as they defeated the Fire 14-0 and 6-0. The Fire now stands at 0-4 in conference, 4-20 overall, as they have yet to earn a win in the Midwest.

Game one on Thursday saw junior Cory Bieber take the mound, allowing only one run in the first four. Eureka struck for another four in the fifth, though Knox was able to keep pace, and the game was forced to extra innings. Bieber ended up allowing seven runs, five earned, as she walked seven and struck out five. In the fifth, Eureka brought in a relief pitcher, a lefty with a hard break on the ball, which stymied the offense of the Fire after they had had such great success against the starter. In the eighth, Eureka drove in a run on a double, then scored another on a throwing error to pull ahead 7-5. Knox was held in check by Eureka’s pitching, earning just two hits in the last three innings. The offense was led by senior Kate Latshaw, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI, and junior Regina Cloyd, who went 1-for-5, driving in three runs. Even so, Knox fell and had to turn it around quickly.

Game two was started by freshman pitcher Brianne Williams, who put forth a dominating performance. Going the complete seven innings, she allowed only five hits and one earned run, a homer in the fourth, while striking out 10. The offense was held quiet again by Eureka’s tricky left hander, only mustering three hits and no walks, as Latshaw drove in Williams in the seventh to halve the deficit, but nothing more was done as Knox lost both ends.

Friday was blustery to no end, a hard wind gusting in from center field, creating a perfect pitchers’ park for both sides. Williams again started the first game, giving up eight hits and only one earned run, though another crossed unearned. The Knox bats were held silent again however, and despite a three hit performance by sophomore Tara Orech (all bunts) and freshman Beth McRill’s 2-for-3 day with an RBI, the majority of the Fire were made to only walk from dugout to plate and back. In both the first and second game, Knox had several loud fouls down the third base line, which on a less windy day, would have been home runs, but were gusted foul.

Game two was much the same, though Bieber started, and the wind continued to blow. Knox was hit hard early, allowing 11 runs in the first two innings. Bieber had nine earned runs on six hits, and Knox committed two errors. The only offense that mattered was put on the board, as junior Cheyenne Cortez and Williams had back to back home runs, which seemed to float over the fence, the only runs Knox was able to score. Cortez was 1-for-3 in the game, while Williams was 2-for-3. The game was called in the fifth on mercy rules, and Knox headed to the clubhouse, a date with some division leaders in their future.

In Saturday’s twin-bill, Williams got the ball in both games, going up against a powerful Scot lineup. She pitched effectively in the opener, with no earned runs despite seven hits. Sloppy field play for the Fire, which netted eight errors, killed it though, as mercy rules closed the game out at five innings. The only offense was by Williams herself, with a single in the first inning. The rest of the bats were held in check as the Scots blasted them, the Fire were overpowered, and faced the prospect of losing four conference games in two days.

Williams had the ball again in the second game, as 13 runs scored, 11 of which were earned, and she was touched for 15 hits. The Fire offense did all it could, with Cloyd going 2-for-3 with two runs scored, junior Cassie Milleville going 2-for-4, and Williams helping her own cause, going 1-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBIs. Despite all their efforts, after seven innings, the Fire were again notching one in the loss column and found themselves firmly entrenched in the cellar of the South Division.

After a rough weekend, a matchup at home with Robert Morris was little more than an afterthought. Already worn down from a crushing weekend, the Fire were unable to mount much of a struggle against the opponents and could not earn a win at home. Game one was an absolute carpet-bombing, as Robert Morris kept its offensive assault constant throughout, with only two innings without runs. Bieber had the ball in the first game, but was hammered for 15 hits over five innings, with 10 earned runs. Robert Morris scored 14 overall, including seven in the fifth, which would prove to be the final frame by mercy rule. Knox mustered only three hits, two by Cloyd and one by Milleville, and was shut out on the day.

The final game of this epic was pitched again by Williams, who was coming off a marathon weekend for a pitcher. She was nailed for nine hits over seven innings, allowing six runs, all earned. The Fire bats were anything but hot once again, with only four hits, including a 2-for-4 day by Williams, and Milleville and senior Ashley Olson each going 1-for-3. Nothing could cross the plate though, as Robert Morris and its pitchers were just too dominant.

For their next challenge, Knox takes a trip to Janesville, Wis., for the Midwest Conference Classic, where they will play in a round-robin tournament against five conference foes over two days, the 18th and 19th. It is a great chance for the Fire to get on the conference board in the right column, though the competition will be stiff.

Merritt Rohlfing

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