Walk-Off Hit Sends Panthers to Sweep of Division Leader Ashland

Kacey Locker
Kacey Locker

ASHLAND, Ohio - With an eighth-inning, walk-off base hit to left in game two, freshman Taylor Thomas (Bellville, OH), delivered the knockout blow to South Division leader Ashland on Thursday as Ohio Dominican's softball team swept the Eagles, 4-2 and 4-3 (8), in GLIAC action at Brookside Park.

Not only did ODU snap a four-game skid to its rivals with the sweep, but the Panthers moved within a one game of the division leader, surpassing last season's conference wins total of nine and now stand at 10-4 and 16-18 overall. Ashland, winners of 21 of 23 and the third highest vote-getter in the others category of the latest NFCA Division II Top 25 Poll, dropped to 22-8 and 12-4 in the conference after suffering their first doubleheader sweep of the year.

The Eagles took the initial lead in the nightcap with an RBI-double in the top of the first. ODU took their first lead in the bottom of the third as sophomore Caitlin Jividen (Wheeling, W.V.) doubled home classmate Rebekha Lucas (Laurelville, OH) and junior Brooke McCartney (Salem, OH) with a shot down the right field line. Lucas reached on a one-out walk, McCartney singled and senior Caitlin Chaney (Newark, OH) induced a walk to set up Jividen's run-scoring base knock. 

Ashland plated a run in the fourth to tie the score at 2-2, but the Panthers came back with one run in the sixth behind three hits and an error. Jividen led off with a single through the middle and stole second. Senior Kylee Crislip (Louisville, OH) reached on a miscue at shortstop and classmate Erin Sutter (Mansfield, OH) beat out an infield single to load the bases once more. Freshman Alex Cribari (Lyndhurst, OH) then followed with an RBI single to right for the 3-2 lead.

A double and single to center by the Eagles in the seventh drew the game even at 3-3. In the extras, Ashland advanced a runner to second with a sacrifice bunt, but freshman starter Rachael Stanzel (Angleton, TX) induced two groundouts to herself to close the at-bat. In the bottom of the frame, Crislip led off with a walk and sophomore Danyelle Delligatta (Sidney, OH) followed with a single to left. After a fielder's choice left runners at first and second, Cribari was then hit by a pitch to load the bases and set up the game-winning heroics for Thomas. 

Stanzel, one of the league leaders in complete games, went the distance for the 14th time in 19 starts and moved to 10-8 overall after holding the GLIAC's second highest scoring squad to just two earned runs on ten hits with a pair of strikeouts.  Jividen finished with three of ODU's eight hits in the game, going 3-of-4 with the two RBI and one run scored.

In the opener, the Panthers squared off against Ashland's ace and previous NFCA National Pitcher of the Week, Emelyn Knerem. Knerem, the conference leader in nearly every pitching statistic, entered the day a perfect 19-0 with a 0.99 ERA and 157 strikeouts in 119.2 innings.

Yet, ODU was able to touch up the Eagles' all-time wins leader with four earned runs on eight hits, while striking out only three times. The Panthers wasted little time getting to Knerem as Chaney delivered a one-out, solo blast to centerfield in the top of the first inning.

After an Ashland score in the home half of the second, ODU pounded out three runs on four hits in the fourth for a 4-1 advantage. Chaney doubled to right field in the leadoff slot and advanced to third on a SAC-bunt from Jividen. Crislip reached on a bunt single back to the pitcher, scoring Chaney, Delligatta followed with a two-bagger to center to plate sophomore pinch-runner Brittany Seavey (Flint, MI), Sutter sped to an infield bunt single to third, and Cribari drove a sacrifice fly to center to cap the scoring.

The four runs were more than enough for freshman Kacey Locker (Tipp City, OH) who made her first collegiate start on the rubber after suffering a preseason injury. Locker outdueled her senior counterpart, holding the Eagles to just one earned run on five hits and three walks in five innings of work for her first career win. Stanzel came on in relief in to begin the sixth and tallied save number two, allowing just one hit over the final two frames.

The Panthers will look to reclaim first place at 12 p.m. this Saturday, April 7 as the women head back to Ashland for the final two games of the series.

Contact: Bryan Desch