Jackson and MacLean pitch lights out in road trip

Despite the warm temperatures, there still was a lot of snow on the softball field this past week, meaning that it was unfit for game play. However, the softball season continues on, and the Lawrence University softball team adapted to the unseasonable weather by hosting their doubleheader with Beloit College at an indoor facility in Loves Park, Illinois on Thursday, April 19. They then hit the road for a doubleheader at Monmouth College on Saturday, April 21 and played a doubleheader at Grinnell College on Sunday, April 22.

Lawrence got off to a strong start against Beloit (3-24, 0-6 MWC) as they scored two runs in each of the first and the second innings. Beloit cut into the Lady Vikes’ lead in the fourth, but Lawrence came roaring back in the fifth. They scored five runs to win the game 9-1 by the eight run rule in five innings. Freshman Ceara Larson lead the team with three RBIs in the games, while junior Sophie Pedersen and sophomore Amanda Karnatz each had two RBIs. Junior Madeline MacLean had one RBI and pitched all five innings, giving up only four hits and striking out three.

The second game of the doubleheader lasted nine innings, as Lawrence and Beloit were tied at 1 run each after seven innings. In the ninth, Beloit scored two runs to win the game 3-1. The Lady Vikes had 10 hits in the game, including a triple by Pedersen and doubles by both Karnatz and Larson, but they struggled to bring runners home. Sophomore Emilia Jackson pitched all nine innings and had 12 strikeouts.

“This was the first time in school history that we played an official game indoors. The facility we played in was exceptional, but our game really isn’t intended to be played inside,” said Head Softball Coach and Associate Director of Athletics Kimberly Tatro. The playing environment is a challenge for the team. “In terms of differences, playing on a completely turf surface is a unique experience. The turf is more lively and plays fast. We were certainly pleased to have the opportunity to practice in the Banta Bowl prior to having this doubleheader, as the surface was very similar. Depth perception with interesting lighting and a ceiling made this a unique for all on defense. Probably the biggest challenge was the surface that our pitchers had to work with. There was not an actual pitching mound that they could use to push off of. That being said, both Madeline MacLean and Emilia Jackson pitched exceptionally well! The backstop was incredibly small and just a few feet behind the umpire. The “dugouts” were benches behind soccer goals, so that was a bit odd,” added Tatro. The indoor games also feature some rule changes, but according to Tatro, there are not too many. “The most significant rule change had to do with the netting on the ceiling – if a ball hit the ceiling netting it was considered a foul ball. This happened once in our doubleheader, and, ironically, the officials missed it.”

Lawrence was back to playing outdoors against Monmouth and Grinnell, as both schools are farther south and did not receive nearly as much snow. Monmouth (15-11, 4-4 MWC) proved to be a challenge for the Lady Vikes, defeating them 11-0 in five innings, scoring four runs in the first inning and six runs in the second inning. Lawrence only had five hits and one double by senior Kori Looker. The Lady Vikes fared better in the second game of the doubleheader. After Monmouth took an early 2-0 lead, Lawrence responded with three runs in the third, including a two-run homer by Larson. In the fourth, Karnatz tripled, scoring junior Rachel Urich to extend Lawrence’s lead to 4-2. However, Monmouth responded with three runs of their own in the bottom of the inning to take back the lead 5-4. Larson hit her second homer of the game in the fifth to tie the game up at 5-5, but Monmouth scored two more runs to win the game 7-5.

Grinnell (19-6, 8-2 MWC) was also a tough opponent for Lawrence. In the first game, the Lady Vikes struck first off an RBI-double by Karnatz in the third, but Grinnell came back in the bottom half of the inning and scored four runs to take the lead 4-1. In the fourth, Lawrence added two more runs, but Grinnell added six to extend their lead to 10-3. Larson homered in the fifth to make the score 10-4, but Grinnell added another two runs and won the game 12-4 in six innings. In the second game, Grinnell took and early 3-0 lead in the first, but Lawrence responded with a massive five-run second inning jumpstarted by a looker double down the infield line. Sophomore Maria Reiter hit a two-RBI single and there were RBI singles by MacLean and sophomore Lexi Angemi. Grinnell scored in the third and the fifth to knot the game at 5 and then won the game in walk-off fashion, 6-5 in the bottom of the seventh.

After this week of play, Lawrence’s record stands at 8-18 overall and 2-8 in the conference. They have a busy week of games ahead of them, as they will finish up their conference schedule by Sunday, April 29. They will play doubleheaders against St. Norbert College, Knox College, Cornell College and Illinois College all this week. Karnatz says, “For the rest of the season, I’m looking forward to finishing the season strong. My hope is that the team can pull together and get some wins to make the conference tournament.”