MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – The Ursinus College softball team opened the 2017 campaign in style, mounting a late comeback in its first game and staving off one in the second as the Bears picked up victories against Medaille and Eureka in sunny South Carolina.
Sophomore Kaitlyn Willis picked up the win in Game 1, a 6-4 victory over Medaille, and freshman Jennifer Hammons struck out eight in a complete-game triumph in her collegiate debut to help the Bears (2-0) edge Eureka by a 5-4 count. Freshman Faith Carson was the star of the opener, going 3-for-4 and scoring a run in her first game in an Ursinus uniform, while fellow rookies Marissa Beebe, Isabella Dewes, and Renee LeClerc also registered their first career hits over the course of the day.
The season-opening sweep was the Bears' first since 2011, when they shut out both Point Park and Misericordia in Florida.
Game 1: Ursinus 6, Medaille 4
The Bears found themselves in a 3-1 hole after three straight two-out singles by the Mavericks plated two runs in the bottom of the fourth.
Ursinus made its move in the sixth, pushing four runs across - all with two outs - to turn a two-run deficit into a two-run lead. Sophomore Kayla Quinn's two-run single tied the game at 3, scoring both Carson and sophomore Rachel Matricardi, and Quinn ended up on third on the play. An error on the Mavericks' pitcher allowed Quinn to dash home with the go-ahead run, and Dewes - who reached on the miscue - got into scoring position with a steal of second. That proved crucial when sophomore Samantha Garritano singled in the next at-bat, allowing Dewes to come around with the fourth run of the frame.
Medaille pulled to within 6-4 and had a runner on second with one out, but Willis closed the door with a fly-out and pop-out.
Willis allowed eight hits and struck out five in her fourth consecutive complete game dating back to last season. Medaille's run in the second inning snapped her 28-inning scoreless streak.
Donato was 2-for-2 for Ursinus, while Quinn accounted for four runs by scoring two of her own and driving in two more with her clutch hit in the sixth.
Game 2: Ursinus 5, Eureka 4
A lid-lifting triumph already in their back pocket, the Bears needed to survive a frantic Eureka rally to make it a double for the day.
Ursinus led 5-0 after five innings, thanks to an RBI single from Garritano in the first and a four-run fifth highlighted by Crouse's two-run base hit and Garritano's subsequent swipe of home on a double steal.
Hammons, who had already navigated out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the top of the fifth, faced another as the Red Devils put their first three runners on in the seventh, trailing 5-1. An RBI groundout cut the margin to 5-2 before Lexi Litwiller's two-run double to left made it a one-run game and put the tying run in scoring position. Unfazed, Hammons induced a fly-out before getting Ashanti Pollard to bounce out to junior Rachel Hyman at third base for the final out.
Hammons surrendered four runs – all earned – on five hits in her collegiate debut, striking out eight Red Devils with only one walk, which came on the first batter of the game. Clinging to a 1-0 lead in the fifth, the freshman hurler watched Eureka pack the sacks with nobody out on a single, an error, and a fielder's choice. But Hammons dug deep, whiffing the next batter before getting a grounder to Crouse, who threw home for the force and the second out. Hammons completed the escape with another strikeout, and the Bears rewarded her right away with four runs in the bottom half of the frame.
Crouse finished 1-for-2 with two RBI to lead the offensive attack, while sophomore Gabrielle Manto went 2-for-3 with a run scored and a stolen base. Quinn reached base twice and scored both times, producing a single and a walk in three plate appearances.
LeClerc doubled down the left-field line to lead off the second for her first career hit.
The softball team continues its spring trip with games against Eastern Mennonite and Wesley on Monday.