UPLAND, Ind. – The Forester softball team came up one game short of winning the Crossroads League tournament Friday as they beat Taylor in the morning, 8-7, to force a second game against the Trojans where the hosts handed HU a 7-1 decision at Gudakunst Field to claim the tournament title.
In addition to claiming the tourney title, Taylor was also deemed the regular season champions to clinch an automatic bid to the 2014 NAIA Softball National Tournament. HU receives the league’s second automatic bid as the tourney runner-up.
Lindsey Shellabarger’s grand slam in the fifth highlighted game one. It was the exclamation point on a big inning as the Foresters pounded out five of their ten hits to score six runs. After an Emily O’Leary single, Cristin Carter double and Natalie McGuire walk, Annie Weaver and Bess Fiechter each singled in a run to set-up Shellabarger’s monster blast that cleared the left field bleachers.
It was the turning point in the contest as Huntington went from being down by two to being up by four at 6-2. But the game was far from over as the Trojans came charging back in their half of the frame to plate three runs, only one of which was earned, to pull within one.
Huntington started the sixth just like the fifth as O’Leary led off with her second base poke of the day. Two outs later Weaver drilled one into right center for a two-run double to give her a team some much-needed breathing room for things to come.
After holding the Trojans scoreless in the sixth, HU had their hands full in the seventh as starting pitcher Hannah Robbins opened up play for the Trojans with a solo shot to left. Three batters later, Ashley Miller followed suit with another solo blast to left to make for an 8-7 contest. Fortunately, O’Leary brought an abrupt halt to Taylor’s near-heroic comeback when she made a great stop at third and an even more impressive throw to first from her knees to log the game’s final out.
Lea Buckenmyer registered the complete-game win for the Foresters. She gave up 13 hits, seven runs and a walk while striking out four.
Weaver and Shellabarger topped HU offensively. Weaver finished 3-for-4 at the plate with three RBI and a run scored while Shellabarger’s dinger landed her four RBI.
Taylor turned things around in the game two. Hannah Klebesadel limited HU to just five hits while her teammates gave her plenty of support by logging 14 hits on their way to a lopsided win.
The Foresters struggled to piece together any sort of offense with their only score coming at the big bat of Shellabarger in the fourth when she sent one deep, her second dinger of the day and ninth of the season. It knotted things up at 1-1 but it was short-lived as the Trojans got one back in their half of the frame before hammering out four hits for four runs in the fifth to blow the game wide open.
Shellabarger and Weaver each finished with two hits.
Starting pitcher Ariel Sheets took the loss. In 4.2 innings on the mound, she gave up 11 hits and six runs while striking out one.
The Foresters (31-21) wrapped up the tournament by batting .355 as a team. They were second among their league peers in fielding percentage (.974) and landed four players on All-Tournament team including Emily Puterbaugh, Annie Weaver, Katie Knous and Lindsey Shellabarger.
Puterbaugh posted a 2.45 ERA and topped the tourney in wins with three. She pitched 20 innings during which she gave up only seven earned runs and held opponents to a .244 batting average.
Weaver registered the fourth highest batting average during the tournament. She went 15-for-27 for a .560 average which included her first collegiate four-bagger. She also scored six times and drove in seven runs.
Knous led the tourney in runs batted in with 11. She finished with nine hits which included a grand slam against Bethel.
Shellabarger’s six RBI, which came with only two swings of the bat, earned her the No. 5 spot for most runs batted in during the tourney. She finished with seven hits and a .330 batting average.
Huntington will find out Tuesday where they will head for their opening round of nationals slated for May 12-14.