John Carroll University’s softball team went into Saturday’s doubleheader against the Marietta College Pioneers in desperate need of some statement wins in order to prove that they were ready to compete for an OAC title. Behind some brilliant pitching and some clutch hitting, the Blue Streaks indeed got those statement wins, sweeping the road series, 3-0 and 6-5.
Game one of the series was all JCU as they shut out the Pioneers, holding them to only three hits, while piling on 12 of their own, one of which resulted in the first run of the game. In the second inning, sophomore Ashlee Unrue connected on an RBI single to give the Blue Streaks the 1-0 lead.
Marietta held JCU scoreless for the rest of the game, until the top of the final frame when JCU poured on two more scores thanks to a pair of RBIs from senior Mackenzie Griffin and junior Colleen Brady, respectively.
This game was an all-around effort by the Blue Streaks, with four different players contributing with at least two hits, as well as another phenomenal pitching performance from sophomore Rachel Byrnes, who tossed her 10th shutout of the year.
The second game of the doubleheader was much more of a challenge for JCU, as the Pioneers came out determined to defend their home field. Marietta wasted no time in showing that they would not go down without a fight when, in the bottom of the first, the Pioneers were able to score their first run of the series.
The second inning went scoreless for both teams, but in the top of the third, JCU erupted for four runs behind RBI doubles from sophomore Ally Kleinhans and freshman Michaela Mackey and RBI singles from juniors Morgan Robinson and Lia Locey.
Marietta responded with a big inning of their own in the bottom of the fifth when they were able to get three baserunners across home plate and tie the game at four. But, as they have all year, the Blue Streaks responded immediately when Griffin belted a two-run homer to right field to give JCU a two-run lead.
“I cannot be more excited that we were able to sweep Marietta,” junior outfielder Colleen Brady said. “Sweeping the number one team in the conference puts us in a great place to make school history and finally host the OAC Tournament at John Carroll.”
“We have been preparing long and hard to be in this position: I am so proud of my teammates,” Brady added.
Editor’s Note: JCU’s crosstown rival, the Yellow Jackets of Baldwin Wallace, paid a visit to Bracken Field on Tuesday, April 23. With a six-game winning streak on the line, the Blue Streaks delivered. On Senior Day, celebrating the team’s lone senior, Mackenzie Griffin, the Blue and Gold snatched 5-3 and 4-3 victories over Baldwin Wallace to keep pace with the first-place team in the OAC, the Capital Crusaders.
In the first contest, Byrnes allowed three runs on four hits to keep a dangerous BW offense at bay. Though Yellow Jackets hurler Tabitha Murray had a solid outing, Griffin and Kleinhans managed to generate enough offense to grant Byrnes her 17th win of the year. Griffin hit 2-3 with an RBI, while Kleinhans launched a critical two-run homer to left center field.
The second game featured another Byrnes-Murray duel and produced a similar result. Byrnes again tossed seven stellar innings, allowing only one earned run on four hits. She again found run support from Kleinhans, as the sophomore tagged an RBI double in the third. Robinson also provided an offensive spark, tattooing a ball down the left field line to score a pair of Blue Streaks. But it was Unrue who delivered the winning run, as the shortstop rocketed a homer over the left field fence, allowing JCU to hang on for a huge win.