By BEN JOHNSON
Kayce Wooldridge seems to have this whole college softball thing figured out.
Northeastern State’s freshman hurler from Berryhill threw four scoreless innings in relief to guide the RiverHawks to a 5-4 triumph over Emporia State on Saturday.
“She pitched like an upperclassman today; she didn’t pitch like a freshman,” NSU coach Clay Davis said. “It was a big moment, and I thought she handled it well. She’s still learning how to handle her composure in big moments, and it was great to see that out of her.”
Wooldridge spelled Shelby Enloe with the RiverHawks clinging to a 5-4 lead after three innings. From that point on, Emporia State (27-12, 14-6 MIAA) stood little chance of coming back. The only offense the Hornets could piece together in the final four frames was a single by Andrea Piezuch in the fourth inning and a single by Taylor Zordel in the seventh inning.
“That was big time,” NSU’s Allyson Pogue said of Wooldridge. “Freshman coming in and reliving our sophomore, that’s big time for her.”
It was Pogue that put NSU (19-17, 11-5) ahead for good in the second inning. The junior from Claremore singled home Navada Campos for the go-ahead run in the second inning. And on the same play, an error by Emporia State center fielder Jessica Brewer allowed Lindsea Ross to score, too.
That opened the flood gates for the RiverHawks’ four-run second inning. Saharra Henson added a bunt single, which scored Pogue. And Amanda Harjo later grounded out, scoring Henson to give NSU a 5-1 lead at the time.
“We scored one in the first after Saharra had a lead-off double, and we were able to drive her in,” Davis said. “That just kept snowballing for us in the second inning for us. We just carried the momentum from the end of the first game into the second.”
Emporia State followed with a three-run inning of its own in the third. Tricia Vogel laced a two-run double to right field, and Cacy Williams had a run-scoring single.
But that was it.
The victory gave NSU a split with the Hornets, with both teams vying for league positioning in the standings.
“We’ll take the split. Emporia is really good and really well-coached,” said Davis, whose team went 3-1 in two days after sweeping Washburn on Friday. “They usually don’t beat themselves, and they made a couple of mistakes today in that second game and we were able to take advantage of it. Against a good team like that, if they do make a mistake, you have to take advantage of it.”
Taking the loss for Emporia State was Lauren Sharp (7-6), who pitched six innings while giving up five runs (three earned) on nine hits. She also walked one.
Up next for NSU is a doubleheader against in-state rival Central Oklahoma today in Edmond. The twinbill will begin at 2 p.m.
“Should be big,” Pogue said of NSU’s matchup with UCO, which is 15-1 in MIAA play. “Everybody is going to be hyped up and playing as best as they can. It’s going to be a good day.”
Emporia State 5, NSU 1 (first game)
Cayce Coleman’s scoreless innings streak came to an end and so did NSU’s eight-game winning streak. It was the RiverHawks’ first setback since a 6-5 loss to Fort Hays State on March 22.
NSU and Emporia State traded scoreless frames for five innings until Vogel hit a solo home run to lead off the sixth inning. When the ball cleared the right-center field fence, it was the first run scored against Coleman since Southwest Baptist plated one in the fifth inning on March 30. Coleman’s streak of not allowing a run ended at 18 innings.
Coleman took the loss for NSU, giving up five runs (four earned) on seven hits — four of which came in the sixth and seventh innings.
That’s when the Hornets did all their damage.
To add to Vogel’s solo shot, the Hornets added a run in the sixth inning on Katie Huffman’s suicide squeeze, which scored Amanda Self.
A lightning delay — despite the skies clearing — halted the game during NSU’s half of the sixth inning, which was another scoreless frame for the RiverHawks.
Emporia State piled on in the seventh inning on Vogel’s two-run double to center. Williams would follow with a run-scoring single up the middle.
Vogel finished the game 3 for 4 with three runs batted in for the Hornets.
Karley Schmelzer picked up the victory for Emporia State in the pitching circle. She improved to 20-6 while issuing only one run on five hits.
NSU’s lone run came on Navada Campos’ solo home run in the seventh inning. The RiverHawks’ brief rally came to a halt when Madison Reed grounded out with runners on first and second base.
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