Blue Knight softball team splits weekend games

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CLERMONT, Fla. – In its first game of the prestigious PFX Spring Games, Urbana University softball nearly knocked off the top-ranked team in Division II in Saturday’s 3-1 setback to Minnesota State-Mankato.

The reigning national champions broke a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the sixth with a pair of runs against UU starter Kayleigh Pate. The freshman right-hander pitched well and fell victim to a bloop single and timely two-out double from the Mavericks.

After falling behind 1-0 on an RBI groundout, UU battled back in the fifth to even the score. Senior left fielder Riley Curtis led off the frame with a deep triple to right center and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly recorded by senior catcher Margo Jackson.

In addition, UU received base knocks produced by sophomore shortstop Mykee Holtz and freshman second baseman Britney Bonno in the contest.

The win was the 10th straight for MSU-Makato, which improved to 10-0. It was a much better showing against the Mavericks this season after the Blue Knights fell 15-0 to Makato in last year’s Spring Games.

UU bounced back from its earlier loss at the Spring Games to defeat Felician, 8-4, on Saturday for its first win of the season.

UU got things going early at the plate with three runs in the first and four more in the second against the Golden Falcons for a 7-2 lead. Five of the Blue Knights’ six hits came in the opening two innings.

After FC took a 1-0 lead in the first, UU sophomore shortstop Mykee Holtz roped a line drive to left field and then freshman second baseman Britney Bonno drew a bases-loaded walk to put UU ahead 2-1. Later with two outs, junior right fielder Jenna VanHoose singled through the left side to bring across another run to make it 3-1.

The Golden Falcons pushed one more across in the second and two in the fifth, but the Blue Knights’ four-run second frame proved to be enough.

UU added one more in the sixth for an insurance run as Allison Neeld came up clutch. The freshman pinch-hitter stepped to the plate with a runner on second and lined a full-count pitch to right field for an RBI double.

Freshman right-hander Jade Laviolette came on to toss the final 2.2 innings, earning her first collegiate win inside the circle. Sophomore Carly Allen started the game for the Blue Knights and freshman Izzy Helm also threw 2.2 innings of relief work.

Seniors Briana Bamber, Courtney Kennedy and Margo Jackson each delivered base hits for UU while senior Riley Curtis swiped two bags and scored twice.

The Golden Falcons totaled eight hits with two errors, led by left fielder Jeannette Roldan and third baseman Jaimie Parisi with two hits apiece. Starter Alexa Raba was tagged with the loss (0-2).

Sunday split

CLERMONT, Fla. — Urbana University softball split another pair of games Sunday with a thrilling 6-5 walk-off victory over regional foe Pitt-Johnstown, followed by a 6-3 setback against Concordia St. Paul (Minn.). The Blue Knights are 2-2 during their 10-game spring break trip and return to action today with games against Lynn (9 a.m.) and Grand Valley State (11:30 a.m.).

GAME 1 (UU 6, UPJ 5)

UU jumped out to an early lead and built a 4-2 advantage after five innings with RBI hits coming from Margo Jackson (3-3, 3 RBI, 2B), Mykee Holtz (1-4, RBI) and Bailee Faulkner (2-4, 2 RBI, 2B).

Then, Pitt-Johnstown found its stroke at the plate and embarked on a comeback with a run in the sixth and three more in the seventh to take a 5-4 lead.

Down to its final at-bat, UU kept battling as senior Bri Bamber reached base to ignite UU’s come-back bid and that was all UU needed to get back in the contest. Three batters later, Jackson came up clutch by producing a two-out single through the left side as Bamber slid in just ahead of the throw to even the score and force extra innings.

The international tie-breaker rule came into effect but UU reliever Carly Allen worked her way out of the jam by stranding a runner on third in the eighth. Then, Faulkner stepped up and launched the first pitch thrown in the bottom half over the left fielder’s head for the walk-off blast that scored Holtz.

Riley Curtis (2-4) and Courtney Kennedy (1-4) also contributed to the hit total as the Blue Knights racked up nine base knocks.

UU left five base runners aboard but was able to work itself out of jams by stranding nine total UPJ runners.

The Blue Knights won back-to-back games, improving to 2-5 overall, while the Mountain Lions dropped their season opener.

GAME 2 (CSP 6, UU 3)

Jackson (1-4, 3 RBI) provided all the offense for the Blue Knights with her first home run of the season, a three-run blast in the top of the third to put UU ahead 3-1.

However, the Golden Bears responded with five unanswered runs over the next two frames and held UU scoreless the rest of the way. With the score 3-2 in UU’s favor, the Bears cashed in four runs in the fourth after a pair of singles and a walk began the inning.

UU threatened with three runners in the fourth and two in the fifth, but failed to convert on the scoring opportunity.

Riley Curtis (2-4), Holtz (2-4) and Faulkner (2-4, 2B) registered multi-hit efforts. Jenna VanHoose and Bri Bamber also singled. UU starter Carly Allen was saddled with the loss in the circle.

UU dropped to 2-6 overall following the loss and CSP improved to 9-4 on the season.

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