Softball honors seniors, sweeps two home doubleheaders

| Sports Editor

Stephen Huber | Student Life

Senior Maggie Ingell swings and connects for a solo home run in the bottom of the first inning against Monmouth College on Saturday afternoon. The Washington University softball team hit three solo homers en route to a 5-4 victory.

The Washington University softball team’s weekend was full of drama—walk-off wins, an explosive offense and Senior Day—mixed with an optimistic ending as the Bears came out with four exciting victories.

Wash. U. completed a sweep of Millikin University in Friday’s doubleheader, winning 5-4 on a walk-off RBI groundout by graduate student Stacy Berg in the first game, then overpowering the Big Blue with a 12-5 victory in the second game. On Saturday, the Bears also took both games in a doubleheader against Monmouth College, with a 4-1 victory in the opener and another walk-off win on a single by junior Sydney Caldwell to give the Bears a 5-4 victory and their seventh win in their last eight games.

The Bears’ offense, which had been inconsistent over the last month, clicked throughout the weekend, picking up key hits in important situations and giving the team’s pitching staff a bit of a cushion to let it pitch a more relaxed, aggressive style.

“The offense has picked it up over this weekend,” head coach Leticia Pineda-Boutte said. “We’ve been stressing how important it is to score runs in order to help out our pitching staff so that they can throw strikes and throw their pitches a lot looser when they have runs on the board.”

The first half of Friday’s doubleheader against Millikin was, at first, an uncompetitive affair. Sophomore pitcher Annie Pitkin struck out nine over 6 1/3 innings, in which she allowed just one hit. A two-run home run by senior Kelsey Neal gave the Bears a 4-0 lead, and Wash. U. looked to be in command. But a string of Millikin hits tied the score, and the game moved to the bottom of the seventh inning with each team at four runs apiece. Freshman Hannah Mehrle led off with a double to left-center field, moved to third on a single to center by senior Maggie Ingell and came home on Berg’s groundout to end the game and give the Bears the victory.

Wash. U. started off game two with five hits, five steals and six runs all in the first inning. In the third inning, Pitkin, pitching in her ninth frame of the day, gave up four runs to let Millikin cut into the large Wash. U. lead. Over the span of the fourth and fifth innings, however, the Bears once again lit up the scoreboard with six more runs, and Neal sealed the game with four innings pitched to get the win.

In the first half of Saturday’s doubleheader against Monmouth, Pitkin returned to the mound and struck out nine over a strong five innings, allowing just five hits and one unearned run. Sophomore Brooke Hofer tallied a school-record three doubles and also made her mark on the mound, nabbing a save with two innings of relief. The Bears’ seven hits included two early RBI doubles, and back-to-back sacrifice flies in the third inning gave Wash. U. a 4-0 lead and a lead it would not relinquish.

The second game of Saturday’s doubleheader featured the second 5-4 walk-off victory for Wash. U.’s weekend, capped by an RBI single from Caldwell. Mehrle was the late-inning spark again, leading off the seventh with a single this time, advancing to second on a sacrifice bunt by junior Paige Biles and scoring on Caldwell’s hit. Hofer pitched well for the Bears, coming in for 2 1/3 innings of relief, allowing no hits and picking up the win.

“We have four pitchers on the staff,” coach Pineda-Boutte said, “and we can bring each one in and out of that pitching role. Different people [stepped] up at different times. Brooke [Hofer] stepped up for us as a contributor on the mound today.”

The team honored its seniors during Saturday’s doubleheader, recognizing the accomplishments of Berg, Ingell, Neal and Claire Henkell.

“Wash. U. attracts very good kids, great work ethic-type kids,” Pineda-Boutte said. “This senior class is no exception. They are great leaders, they are our captains and they definitely set the tone for this team.”

Having now won seven of their past eight games, the Red and Green are finally meeting the high expectations they had after starting the season 8-0, getting consistent hitting and strong pitching over the course of the weekend.

“We’ve been one of the strongest [softball] teams here at Wash. U. in a while, and we were underachieving a little bit,” Pineda-Boutte said. “It was an eye-opener to everyone, including the seniors, that if we don’t take care of business, our season may be over.”

Thankfully, the team has gone on a fruitful run, finding itself with an impressive 26-13 record. The Bears will look to extend this success when they face Principia College and No. 22 Fontbonne University in doubleheaders this Thursday and Friday, respectively.

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