HUNTINGTON, Ind. - Looking to stay in the hunt for the top spot in conference play, the Forester softball team moved one step closer to that goal by toppling Marian University Tuesday afternoon.
The Knights, currently receiving votes in the national standings, entered the day’s doubleheader as the MCC leader but HU changed all that by sweeping the visitors, 2-1, 5-2.
With these losses, Marian (22-7, 5-3) drops into a two-way tie for fourth place in league play while the Foresters (19-9) slide into second with an MCC record of 7-1.
Facing the most dangerous offensive team in the conference, Molly Long didn’t seem fazed as willed her team to victory by hurling a complete-game four-hitter and limiting the Knights to one run and one walk while striking out seven in the opener.
Marian pitcher Emily Gwaltney proved to be equally as effective as she gave up four hits on the day but didn’t have the backing defensively to which the Foresters took full advantage.
After an uneventful three innings, HU pieced together a two-run fourth inning thanks in large part to untimely Marian blunders. Following a misplayed grounder and passed ball that landed Brita Kuiper on second, Cristin Carter delivered an RBI double to the warning track and then came around to score what proved to be the game-winner by way of a bobble and passed ball to give HU a 2-0 advantage.
The Knights cashed in three of their four hits in the top of the fifth but a poised Forester crew got the job done defensively to escape the inning still holding onto a 2-1 lead. Long then made sure the lead stuck as she fanned four of the Knights’ final six batters to secure the win.
Katie Bowers went 2-for-2 at the plate while Carter doubled in HU’s lone earned run. Kuiper was the only other Foresters to log a hit in the pitcher’s duel.
Long took the mound again in the nightcap and pitched her second gem of the day to silence a Knight squad that is hitting .343 as a team. She gave up two runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out four for her second complete-game victory of the day.
It was a Groundhog Day experience as the first three innings proved to be ho-hum but just like game one, all that changed in the fourth as timely hitting and a myriad of Marian miscues allowed the Foresters to erupt for five runs and take control of the game.
With runners on the corners by way of a Bowers double and Katie Knous bunt, the wheels came off for the Knights as they gave up four runs on back-to-back bobbles and consecutive missed catches. Peyton Klinkhamer capped off the scoring spree by registering the inning’s only RBI hit to push HU’s lead to 5-0.
The Knights regrouped to get two back in the top of the sixth and threatened again in the seventh but the Foresters would have none of it. With runners on second and third and one out, Long struck out the next batter but a dropped third strike forced Kuiper to make the throw to first. Looking to sneak home on the play, Twining’s attempt backfired as Kuiper put on a perfect tag for the final out to send the Knights packing.
Bowers picked up two more hits in the nightcap to pace the Foresters offensively while four other Foresters collected a hit in the winning effort.
HU takes the diamond again on Thursday to host Bethel College for a 3:00 p.m. doubleheader.