Washburn softball completes comeback in eight innings

That’s a hit: Junior catcher Bri Francis sends a ball into center field in the Ichabods 7-6 victory over the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

After a hot and cold day for the Washburn University softball team on Friday, they were back in action on Saturday as the University of Nebraska at Kearney visited Gahnstrom Field for an afternoon doubleheader. After splitting games the day prior, the Ichabods entered with a record of 17-4, while the Lopers began the day at 9-11.

Coming off a no-hitter against Fort Hays State University the day before, freshman Jaycee Ginter would begin the day in the circle for Washburn. While she did allow a hit in the top of the first the inning ended the same as all seven did the day prior, with no runs allowed.

The Ichabods wasted no time getting started in the bottom of the first, following a single by freshman shortstop Hadley Kerschen. She was driven home by junior designated player Ashton Friend who hit a line-drive home run over the left-field fence on the first pitch she saw. The home run would be the third of the year for Friend and it completed the scoring for the inning as Washburn led 2-0.

After giving up a hit in the first Ginter settled in, setting down the University of Nebraska at Kearney in order the next two innings. The Ichabods picked up a walk and a hit in the bottom of the third but were unable to provide any additional run support.

In the top of the fourth, the Lopers proved that Ginter was human, as they picked up three extra-base hits in the inning, including a three-run home run to make it a 4-2 game. Those runs were the first allowed by Ginter through ten innings for the weekend.

Washburn responded in the bottom half of the inning with a double by freshman third baseman Marrit Mead who traded places with sophomore right fielder Maddie Stipsits who reached base on a fielder’s choice. That would be all of the scoring in the inning for Ichabods as the game moved to the fifth inning with a score of 4-3.

Ginter responded well in the fifth with a scoreless inning. Washburn would not be as easy to set down as they got runners on second and third without even needing to lift the bat off their shoulders. Senior center fielder Brianna Fuchs made Nebraska at Kearney pay with a well-placed ground ball that resulted in an out but also scored Friend from third to even the score at four.

The top of the sixth inning was an adventure for both sides as it featured some heads-up defensive plays from the Ichabods coupled with excellent hitting by the Lopers. In the end, the hitting prevailed as Abbie Jo Gaube lined a single into right field with two outs and the bases loaded. The hit was a third of the inning for Nebraska at Kearney, and it gave them a 6-4 advantage.

That is how the score would stay as the game moved to the bottom of the seventh inning, representing the last opportunity for Washburn. Ginter began the inning for the Ichabods with a double off of the right-field wall and Friend followed a single into the right field, scoring Ginter and making the game 6-5. Junior catcher Bri Francis followed with a walk which moved Friend up to the second base.

With no outs and two on Brianna Fuchs might have had the most important play as she laid down a perfect bunt right in front of the plate, advancing both runners while also putting herself on first base. Freshman first baseman Kimi Patterson did the rest, sending a fly ball into right field, scoring Friend, and tying the game at six. That is all that Washburn would get as the game moved into extra innings.

With a pitch count well over 100, Ginter battled through the top of the eighth getting out of a bases-loaded one-out jam with a scoreless frame. Marrit Mead led off the bottom of the inning with her third single of the day and stole her team-leading ninth base of the season putting her at second base.

“I was just trying to focus in and get on base, I wasn’t trying to do anything special because I knew my teammates would move me over,” said Mead.

Kerschen advanced Mead to third base with a ground ball to the right-side, putting Jaycee Ginter in a position to win the game for herself. On a 1-1 pitch, Ginter sent a hard ground ball down the right-field line, past the third baseman to score Mead, giving the Ichabods a 7-6 victory.

“I liked the battle of the first game, I didn’t think we played particularly well but we had a lot of opportunities to roll over and die, we got behind a couple of times so I liked our fight to come back, I thought it was important to win that game,” said Head Coach Brenda Holaday.

The win moved Washburn’s season record to 18-4, a mark they would have the chance to improve on in the second game of the day which took place the same afternoon.

Edited by: Crystal Hendrix, Katrina Johnson, Matthew L. Self