MARS HILL, N.C. – The Lions softball team opened the 2017 season with a sweep of Bellarmine University on Sunday afternoon at Ponder Field. The Lions are now 2-0 after defeating the Knights by finals of 10-2 (5 innings) and 11-9.
The Lions struck early and often, plating three runs in the top of the first. Cassidy Dahle reached on an error by the shortstop and was sacrificed over by Ragan Broome. Kaleigh Jonas laced a single to left field that was booted and allowed Dahle to plate the first run of the 2017 season. Taylor Lail followed that with a blast to right field to put the Blue and Gold ahead 3-0 after one.
However, Bellarmine scratched a pair of runs in the top of the second to narrow the deficit to 3-2. Following back-to-back hit by pitches, the Knights connected on a single and double to score their first runs of the contest.
Dahle became the producer in the home-half of the second, roping a double down the left-field line to score Emily Crouse, who connected on a two-out hit to keep the inning alive. Starting pitcher Shelby Culler helped herself in the bottom of the fourth. After a ringing double to right center by Krista Romine that barely missed leaving the yard, Culler left no doubt with a towering blast to center, giving the Lions a 6-2 advantage. Mars Hill was not done there as Dahle found herself on second with a hustle double and Ragan Broome peppered the right centerfield fence with a double, scoring Dahle.
Another miscue by the Knights, this time in the bottom of fifth, allowed Mars Hill to put the game away. Lail led the inning off reaching by way of error on the third baseman. Following a fielder's choice Romine singled up the middle to put runners on first and second with one out. Casey Stanek then ripped a double to left center to score a run. Culler blasted a sharp line drive past a diving third base to score two runs and give the Lions a 10-2 victory in five innings.
Dahle, Romine, and Culler led the Lions at the plate during the first game, each collecting two hits, while Culler also posted a game-high four RBIs. Culler picked up the win, throwing five innings, allowing five hits and two runs. Alexis Sumner was tagged with the loss as she lasted 3.1 innings and allowed six runs on six hits.
Bellarmine scratched one across in the top of the first following a two-out knock by Ciara Incorvati, but starting pitcher Sydney Elkin settled down and tallied a swinging strikeout by the next batter to keep the damage at a minimum.
The Lions came right back in the bottom of the first to take a 3-1 lead. Back-to-back singles started the frame and after a fielder's choice out, freshman Addison Harris singled up the middle to produce her first collegiate RBI. A hit batter loaded the bases and an error by third base allowed a runner to cross the plate. Casey Stanek earned a bases-juiced walk to plate the third and final run of the half inning.
Kaleigh Jonas added to the lead in the second with a shot up the middle, scoring Dahle who had reached on a hard hit ball to second base. The Lions were not done there, adding two more scores on four total hits. Stanek and Emiley Burriss collected RBI singles during the three-run inning.
The Knights battled back with a three-spot in the top of the third. However, with the bases loaded freshman Brittany Duncan made a relief appearance and put her first career strikeout on the stat sheet to help end the threat and send the game to the home third.
Taylor Lail made a pinch hit appearance in the bottom of fourth and gave the Lions a 7-4 lead with a base hit to left field. Bellarmine's sticks woke up in the top of the fifth, hanging a four-spot on the board to take an 8-7 lead.
That lead did not last long as MHU came back with two runs in its half of the fifth to retake the lead 9-8. Kaleigh Jonas doubled with one out and after a fly-out to right field, Krista Romine sent a 1-1 pitch high over the right field wall.
Mars Hill opened the bottom of the sixth with three consecutive hits, including two perfectly placed bunt singles by Coral Foster and Dahle. Ragan Broome then burned the center fielder with a ringing double that scored two huge insurance runs.
Olivia Russell led off the top of the seventh with a homerun to left, trimming the Lions lead to 11-9, but Stanek regained her composure to finish the game off with a looking strikeout, preserving the sweep for the Blue and Gold.
Dahle finished game two batting 3-for-4 with a run scored, while Jonas and Foster added two hits each. Stanek added a team-high two RBIs in the nightcap. Stanek also earned the victory after pitching 2.2 innings of one-run relief. Alexis Sumner was issued the loss after tossing 4.1 innings and allowing 5 runs.
The Lions will return to action on Friday, February 10 as they travel to Dahlonega, Ga. to participate in the Steak 'N Shake Classic hosted by North Georgia. Mars Hill will play the host team in the first matchup at 4 p.m.