By: Sean Neidig, sports information graduate assistant
CLERMONT, Fla. – Capital University Softball concluded its five-day, eight-game Spring Break trip in Florida on Friday by hitting three home runs, staging a comeback attempt and eventually splitting its final two games. In the day's first game, the Crusaders took down Northern Vermont University – Johnson 12-1 in five innings and then nearly completed a comeback from the brink against Neumann University but ultimately fell 11-10.
GAME 1 – Capital 12, Northern Vermont – Johnson 1 (5 innings)
In the first game of the day, both Capital and NVUJ went scoreless through the first two innings although Capital did get a runner to third after Morgan Fadel hit a single and then stole second and third.
In the third inning though, the Crusaders' bats started heating up. Hannah Martin became Capital's first runner of the inning after reaching on an error by NVUJ's pitcher that allowed her to reach second. With Fadel up to bat, Martin stole third and Fadel was hit by a pitch. Fadel then stole her third base of the game before Erica Odgen drew a walk to load the bases.
Kristen Mellot then rocketed a single through the left side of the infield that brought Martin and Fadel home. Two batters later, Chevonne Hayslett smacked a double to the rightfield grass that scored another pair.
The Crusaders held NVUJ scoreless again and extended their lead in the fourth. Martin led off the inning with a walk before Alyx Slusher was called out for leaving the box early. Fadel then stepped up to the plate and put Capital on the board by cranking a home run over the fence in center field, her first of the season and first of her collegiate career.
Ogden followed the homer with a double and then advanced to third on a wild pitch. Kristen Mellott doubled Ogden home to make it a 7-0 game. Continuing the power surge, Cory Mangen stepped up to bat and connected on her first home run of the season with a towering shot to left that also scored Mellott.
The Crusaders were nowhere near done though and promptly loaded the bases again. Alyx Wulff then singled in a run and Mariah Gossett drew a bases-loaded walk. Capital scored its eighth run of the inning on a sacrifice fly from Fadel.
NVUJ pulled one run back in the bottom of the fourth but Capital held the Badgers scoreless in the fifth to get the win. The 12 runs are a season high for the Crusaders.
Fadel finished the game 2-for-2 with the homer and three RBIs, Mellott went 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs and Mangen finished 2-for-3 with the home run, a double and two RBIs.
Starting pitcher Brianna Reardon put on a clinic over three innings and did not allow a hit while striking out five. Madrienne Herdlick pitched the final two innings and allowed only three hits and the one run while recording a strikeout.
GAME 2 – Neumann 11, Capital 10
Capital's second game of the day looked like it would be over after only five innings as well with Capital on the losing end but the Crusaders mounted a furious comeback to almost steal the win from Neumann.
The Knights scored the game's first runs in the second inning with a two-run double but Mangen hit her second home run of the day to lead off Capital's half of the inning to make it a one-run game.
Neumann scored a run off of a double in the third but again Capital answered with a sac fly from Mangen that scored Fadel. Neumann's bats got hot in the fourth though with two unanswered runs and then the Knights scored six in the fifth to take an 11-2 lead.
With their backs against the wall heading into the bottom of the fifth though, the Crusaders began what ended as a furious comeback attempt. A strike out started the inning but Mellott and Mangen drew walks to put two on. Hayslett then scored one of the runners with a single to left to start the carousal and a walk for Lauren Kachure loaded the bases. Alysa Durbin put the ball in play as Capital's next batter but the Knights tagged Mangen out at home to prevent a run scoring although the bases remained juiced. A Neumann wild pitch allowed a run to score though and then Hannah Martin walked to reload the bags.
Now down 11-4 and assured of a sixth inning, Capital drew even closer thanks to a double from Alyx Slusher that emptied the bases and made it an 11-7 game.
After holding the Knights in the sixth, Ogden doubled to start the inning and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Two batters later, another wild pitch allowed Ogden to race home, cutting the deficit to three heading into the seventh.
After holding Neumann scoreless again, Capital had only three outs left to complete the comeback and started the inning with a walk from Kachure who advanced to second and then third on two wild pitches. Haley Grau then drew a walk herself and was replaced by Isabelle Hysong who advanced to second on another wild pitch. Capital then scored on a sac fly from Martin that also moved Hysong to third with the Crusaders now trailing 11-9. Hysong then scurried home on yet another wild pitch and the Crusaders trailed by only one.
With the tying run at the plate, Slusher reached safely on an error by Neumann's second baseman, advanced to second and was replaced on the basepath by Wulff. Now with the winning run at the plate and the tying run in scoring position, Fadel flied out to center and Wulff was tagged out at second to end the game.
Slusher finished the game 2-for-4 with a walk and team-high three RBIs and Mangen went 1-for-2 with two RBIs and a walk. Kachure was 1-for-1 with three walks and two runs scored.
The Crusaders will now have two weeks off before traveling to Hanover College on Friday, March 15 to play the Panthers. Capital will then play Franklin University on March 16.