Softball opens season at Samford, goes 4-1

Oscar Rzodkiewicz, Assistant Sports Editor

The Eastern softball team moved to 4-1 to open the year at the Samford Tournament from Feb. 7 to Feb. 9 in Birmingham, Alabama. It was newly hired head coach Tara Archibald’s debut weekend and it included an eight-run comeback for a win.

The Panthers opened the season about as strongly as they could as freshman Hannah Cravens hit a grand slam in the first inning of the team’s opening game against Akron that propelled them to a 5-4 opening victory in game one of the day.

Game two of the day against Samford was not quite as fortunate for Eastern, falling by a 4-3 margin.

Cravens got into the action again with a home run in the fourth inning that put the Panthers ahead by a run, but a two-run fifth inning from the Bulldogs made it a 1-1 split on day one.

The Panthers took over the last two days of the tournament, though, winning three straight, including two against Winthrop and one more game with Samford.

The first win came against Winthrop by a 2-1 tally after freshman Taylor Florea allowed a solo home run in the second inning before Cravens and freshman Andrea Sampson scored off separate errors by the Eagles to secure the win.

The second game of the day against Samford showcased a strong comeback from the Panthers after the Bulldogs went up 10-2 into the top of the fifth inning.

Eastern responded with three quick runs and then a three-run home run from freshman Hannah Kissel to cut the lead to just two runs before junior Mia Davis got her first hit of the weekend in style by hitting a grand slam to centerfield that put the Panthers ahead, leading to a 16-11 win.

Eastern closed out the weekend on Sunday with a 3-1 win in the final game of the tournament over Winthrop.

Florea hit the hill to face the Eagles yet again, picking up her second win of the year while the offense mustered up three runs in the third inning after back-to-back doubles by Cravens and Davis followed with a single from junior Haley Mitchell that drove in one more, and the Panthers held from there.

In the 4-1 start to the year, Cravens finished the weekend with a team-high 9 RBI on six hits to lead the way while also adding a win on the mound, while Florea amassed a 2-1 record overall pitching with 9 strikeouts in 16.1 innings pitched.

Junior Jade Montgomery also added a win to her resume.

The four wins are the first for Archibald as a college head coach. She came to Eastern following three seasons as the pitching coach at Illinois State. She also served as an assistant coach at Georgia for four seasons prior to joining the Illinois State staff.

The Panthers return to action on Saturday to start the Troy University Tournament with Kennesaw State being the first opponent at 11:30 a.m.


Oscar Rzodkiewicz can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]