Jacks softball team falls to Western Illinois

Jackrabbit softball split a pair of pitchers’ duels on Saturday but watched as Western Illinois ran away from them with the win Sunday to take the series two games to one. 

Western Illinois scored a run in the first inning and two more in the third inning of the series opener, but that was all as Ashlyn Bender shut them down through the final four innings, holding the Leathernecks to three runs on six hits and no walks. 

The limited run support did not bother Kacyee Hart, as she surrendered a lone run in the fifth when Christian Mckone singled in Jordyn Sturgeon, but otherwise stifled the Jackrabbits, holding them to just three hits.

Game two on Saturday remained scoreless until the fifth when Cassidy Vlot led off the inning with a solo home run, her second of the year. 

Sturgeon then added a long ball of her own and McKone’s triple added a third run when Jessica Markanich knocked her in with an RBI single.

“Hitting is contagious,” said Head Coach Krista Wood. “We had more hits in that inning than we did in the whole first game. So once we can get some people to start hitting the ball, hopefully the rest of them will follow along.”

Meanwhile, Bryanna Clark tossed seven shutout innings of four hit balls to record her fifth win and second shutout of the season in the 3-0 victory. 

Sunday’s rubber match quickly got out of hand at Jackrabbit Softball Stadium as Western Illinois chased Bender after facing four batters in the first without recording an out. Clark relieved her for three innings of work, surrendering another six runs in the process.

Finally, Wood turned to Vlot for the final two innings of work. Only recording six innings prior to Sunday’s game, Vlot nonetheless regained control over the Leathernecks, limiting them to one run on two hits.

“She [Vlot] actually did a great job out there,” Wood said. “She carried herself like a leader and I think that she held a lot of confidence for not having very many innings under her belt.” 

The Jackrabbits put runners on base in every inning Sunday, but struggled to drive them home. Knowing her team had been struggling with runners on base, Wood utilized two delayed steals on first and third situations to score runs in the first and third innings.

“We’re just not producing runs and we didn’t yesterday either, so we had to take a chance on getting a runner over by the delayed steal,” Wood said. 

SDSU’s only RBI came in the second when McKone singled home Lauren Chirnside who had reached on a walk. Overall, the Jackrabbits left nine runners on base as they fell 11-3.

“It’s just something you have to battle out,” Wood said.

The Jacks will try to turn things around with a pair of non-conference doubleheaders on April 21 and 22 ahead of their final home Summit League series against last place Fort Wayne on April 25 and 26.