Softball team lets early lead slip away

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

The Eastern softball team put up four runs in the first inning, which in recent games would have been enough run support for sophomore pitcher Jessica Wireman, but Illinois went on to score nine out of the next 12 runs to win.

Coming into the game, the Panthers were riding a six-game win streak but were struggling to score runs. Wireman and Rogers have been big for the Panthers, as they have combined to throw five shutouts.

After last weekend’s three-game series with Austin Peay, Eastern coach Angie Nicholson said she wanted to see the team hit more shots.

The Panthers put up seven runs on the Fighting Illini Wednesday afternoon, but it was not enough, as they dropped the game 9-7. Eastern outhit Illinois 12-11 in the game.

Eastern got on the board early, putting up four runs in the top of the first. Senior right fielder April Markowski got the scoring started with a single to right field driving in freshman center fielder Kayla Bear.

The bases stayed loaded for junior Amber Toenyes to draw a walk and bring in senior third baseman Haylee Beck. Junior catcher Ashlynne Paul and freshman second baseman Mady Poulter each drove in a run in the inning as well.

The Fighting Illini would answer with four runs in the bottom half of the inning, however, and grab the lead in the second inning.

The Panthers got the lead back to 7-6 in the third inning off of a Bear double that drove in two runs. But a three-run fifth and sixth gave the Fighting Illini the winning runs.

Despite the loss, Markowski said the team is starting to hit better.

“We are definitely hitting the ball better,” Markowski said. “Even this past weekend we were hitting the ball more and limiting the strikeouts.”

Illinois is not in the Ohio Valley Conference, so the Panthers’ OVC record still stands at 9-6. The Panthers record is good enough to have the in third place in the standings behind 13-3 Eastern Kentucky 17-0 Jacksonville State.

Wireman got the start in the circle for Eastern and would take the loss. Wireman had just earned her fourth OVC pitcher of the week honor for last week’s performance.

Bear led the Panthers’ offense going 3-5 at the plate and driving in two runs. The Panthers had five players with two or more hits in the game.

The recent stretch of solid hitting for the Panthers has them confident heading back into the final stretch of OVC play.

“This was definitely a good confidence boost for the OVC games to come,” Markowski said. “We have been hitting the ball and getting timely hits and executing better than we have all year. We feel pretty good going into the last half of our season.”

After the quick break from OVC play, the Panthers will head to Nashville, Tenn. to take on Belmont and Tennessee State in a pair of doubleheaders this weekend.

The Panthers will play their next seven games on the road before they return back to Williams Field on May 7 taking on Southeast Missouri.

Then they will prepare for the OVC Tournament on May 11.

With the end of the season looming and teams fighting for one of the eight spots in the OVC tournament, each game will be crucial. It is a tight race for Eastern and the rest of the teams in the middle of the standings.


Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]