No. 24 WLU Struggles at the Plate in Season Opener
FLORENCE, S.C. – The No. 24-ranked West Liberty softball team couldn't get the bats going here Friday afternoon and opened their season with back-to-back losses in the Patriot Invitational at Francis Marion University.
Coach Herb Minch's two-time defending Mountain East Conference champion Hilltoppers dropped an 11-1 decision to 2021 Atlantic Region Tournament host Kutztown, Pa. in the first game of the afternoon before coming up short by a 4-1 tally against the host Patriots under the Friday night lights.
In the nightcap, Francis Marion (9-8) got a two-out, three-run triple from Katie Smith in the bottom of the first and that was all the offensive support Patriot ace Rachel Davis needed.
West Liberty led off the game with back-to-back doubles by Riley Conkle and Katie Beeman to take a quick 1-0 lead but that was it for the Black and Gold attack as Davis blanked WLU on two singles the rest of the way. The hard-throwing righty finished with a career-high 13 strikeouts while issuing just two walks.
Kutztown returned virtually its entire roster from last year's 33-win team and the Golden Bears (2-1) appeared in mid-season form. The Pennsylvania squad broke the scoring ice with back-to-back 3-run innings in the third and fourth frames and the Hilltoppers couldn't fight their way back.
Beeman and Sidney Little teamed up to avoid the shutout in the bottom of the fourth. Beeman just missed her first home run of the season, lining a one-out double off the top of the left field wall, and Little plugged the right-center gap with a two-bagger of her own to bring Beeman trotting home.
Little and Beeman each finished with a single and a double to account for four of WLU's six hits.
Tournament action continues tomorrow with two more games for the Hilltoppers at FMU Softball Stadium. The Black and Gold gets another crack at Kutztown in an 11 a.m. opener before wrapping up the day with a 3 p.m. game against Lenoir-Rhyne (N.C.).
(at Florence, S.C.)
Kutztown 11, No. 24 West Liberty 1
Kutztown 003 305 – 11 8 0
West Liberty 000 100 – 1 6 2
KU: Bailey wp (8SO, 0W) and Auvil. Stocklin D, S, rbi; Ostazewski 2S, rbi; Lipowski HR, 4bi; Hubler HR, rbi; Auvil S, rbi; Texidor S, rbi
WLU: Paterson lp (4SO, 4W), Amend (4) (3SO, 1W), Bonnett (6) (0SO, 0W) and Holbrook, McCroskey (6). Little D, S, rbi; Beeman D, S
Francis Marion 4, No. 24 West Liberty 1
West Liberty 100 000 0 – 1 4 0
Francis Marion 300 100 x – 4 5 0
WLU: Bonnett lp (0SO, 3W), Bennington (4) (3SO, 1W) and Blair. Beeman D, rbi; Conkle D
FMU: Davis wp (13SO, 2W) and Smallwood. Smith T, S, 3rbi; Karacson D, rbi; Moberg D; Matsil D