The opening day of conference play was a tale of two different games for the John Carroll University softball team, as it split its first series in the Ohio Athletic Conference. The Blue Streaks came out on top in the first game due to some late game heroics, but dropped the second game, 7-4, to the Cardinals of Otterbein College.
In the first game of the doubleheader, the Blue Streaks opened with an early 2-0 lead. However, the Cardinals answered with four runs of their own in the top of the second inning on a bases loaded, two-out error, to take early control of the game.
Not being rattled by the defensive miscue, JCU responded when junior Julie Marlowe connected on a two-run home run to tie the game at four.
The pitching and defense held steady for the majority of the game, until the fifth inning when freshman Erin Riccardi untied it with one swing of the bat.
Riccardi belted her first collegiate home run at a perfect time, giving the Blue Streaks the lead at 5-4.
JCU received another stellar pitching performance from freshman Brittany Danilov, who threw a complete game to improve her record to a team-best 8-3 on the season.
In conference play, where each game is crucial to a team’s success, coming through in the tough games is what will separate the good teams from the great ones.
“Winning the opening game in a conference double header is essential,” junior Samantha Thompson said. “It’s just as important to stay focused and win the second game as well if we really want to compete for a championship this season.”
The second game of the day saw the team lose its focus momentarily in the field, and it cost them severely in the ballgame.
In the top of the first inning, JCU’s defense betrayed them as two untimely errors allowed three unearned runs to score for Otterbein.
“The two errors in the first really set us back,” Danilov said. “They were tough to recover from.”
In fact, the Blue Streaks were never be able to recover from the difficult opening frame.
They drew close in the bottom half of the first inning with two runs, but were quickly put down by a pair of RBI hits from the Cardinals that gave Otterbein a 3-0 lead.
Both teams tacked on a pair of runs in the third inning to give Otterbein a 5-4 lead, but a two-run fourth inning widened the gap to 7-4.
JCU made one more effort to come back in the bottom of the seventh, as they would load the bases with no outs, having the winning run at the plate.
However, a double play, followed by a fly out would cap off the difficult finish to the day for the Blue Streaks.
“We just need to relax,” Danilov added. “We need to have fun, instead of putting so much pressure on ourselves.”
With the split, JCU goes to 12-4 overall for the season and 1-1 in conference play.
JCU will looks to return to their winning ways on April 4th when they travel to New Concord, Ohio for a conference doubleheader with the Muskies of Muskingum College, who split their OAC opening doubleheader with Heidelberg University.