Softball wins fourth straight

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Softball wins fourth straight

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This past weekend, the Billiken softball squad brought home a clean sweep from Philadelphia against St. Joseph in three conference games.  Blazing through the  Atlantic-10 Conference rankings, the Bills hushed the Hawks 7-1, 11-1, and a final nerve-wracking win, 6-5, to conclude the series.

The Billikens started out strong in the opener on Saturday, April 25, despite being the away team.  SLU had a shocking six runs all in the first inning on five hits and an error from the Hawks.  St. Joseph’s didn’t get a crack of the bat until the third inning, and even then failed to make anything out of it.

Sophomore shortstop Alex Nickel notched another run for the Bills on a stolen base and a Hawks fielding error, giving SLU a 7-0 lead halfway through the game.  The Hawks rallied late in the bottom of the seventh inning with three hits, which resulted in the lone run for the home team.

The Billikens had no mercy that afternoon, going in for the sweep.  SLU earned four runs and six hits in the first inning.  Nickel, junior pitcher Brianna Lore, sophomore catcher Hailey Weavers and sophomore first baseman Emma Buckles all collected singles. Freshman infielder Alyssa Tarquinio doubled and senior outfielder Lindsay Friedman had a home run early in the game.  However, the Hawks answered with one run in the first, attempting to prevent a substantial lead for the Bills.

Nickel stepped up to the plate at the top of the lineup during the second inning and crushed a homerun to right centerfield, making it 5-1 in SLU’s favor.  Freshman outfielder Josie Knesel started the fourth inning by adding two more runs for the Billikens.  She singled, then stole second and reached home on Friedman’s double.  Friedman stole third, and reached home on freshman infielder Allie Macfarlane’s single, widening the gap 7-1.

SLU sealed the deal in the top of the fifth with another four-run inning.  Weavers, Buckles and Knesel tag-teamed to get Weavers in;  Nickel followed up with a single, allowing Buckles to put another run on the board.  Nickel added to the collection with an unearned run and Lore snuck in a single at the tail end of the inning, to allow Friedman to score and put the Billikens ahead of the curve, 11-1.  The Hawks were too deep in the hole; SLU took the victory in a shortened game, and swept the first day, 2-0.

The second game may have been the biggest game for the Billikens so far this season.  The 2015 lineup shattered records left and right, within the short five innings of the 11-1 victory.  Following Saturday’s game, SLU had 31 wins, surpassing last year’s record of 30.  The Bills dominated offensively, setting a record high number of doubles, 77.  Nickel currently holds the title for most runs scored in a season, 49.  She also holds the highest number of total bases at 108, and tied with teammate Friedman for the most home runs with 10.

Friedman set the record for career RBI’s with 120.  This record hasn’t been broken since 2010.  SLU also hit it out of the park with a record 16 hits in the second game.

SLU started the final game Sunday, April 26, with a 4-0 lead at the top of the second with two home runs from Buckles and Nickel.  St. Joseph got on the board in the fourth with a triple.

The Hawks chipped away at SLU’s lead in the bottom of the sixth to tie it up, 4-4.  Two singles, a double and a fielding error let St. Joseph’s back in for a taste at revenge.

With just the deciding seventh inning left on the weekend, it was anyone’s ball game.  A single from Elizabeth Everingham and a walk placed Friedman on third for a promising start, but St. Joseph third baseman and catcher denied her the run.

Tarquinio stepped up to the plate with two outs and a final chance for the Bills to break away and hold down the field in the bottom of the seventh.  The rookie saved the day with a single to centerfield.  Macfarlane and junior pinch runner Madeline Brungardt found home plate to give the Bills the lead, 6-4.

Lore and the rest of the defense held the Hawks at bay, despite allowing three hits and a late run.  The Hawks fell 6-5 at home in a last-ditch effort to save face from a total 18-2 run disparity to the Billikens on Saturday, but could not stop SLU’s streak.

SLU played A-10 rival SIUE on April 28, at the Billiken Sports Center. The Billiken’s offense started the game off strong. Friedman drew a one-out walk and stole second. Junior third baseman Elizabeth Everingham snuck a ball between third base and shortstop for an infield single, and Friedman scored on a overthrow to first. Macfarlane hit her eighth homer of the year to give the Billikens a 3-0 lead.

SIUE scored on an unearned run in the second, but SLU quickly responded with two runs in the fourth and fifth innings. SIUE scored in the seventh, but was unable to cut the deficit after that, resulting in a 7-2 victory for the Billikens.

The Billikens, who have won four straight, and eight of their last nine games, improved to 33-16 and freshman pitcher Maddie Baalman registered her 10th win of the season. The Billikens will travel to Massachusetts to play UMass in a three-game series on May 2-3.

The softball team is now 33-16 overall, and 15-5 in conference play.  With one series remaining, the Billikens are ready to blaze into the conference tournament, held in Massachusetts, May 6-9.