Panthers sweep Wednesday doubleheader against SIUE, including 11-inning thriller

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Rob Le Cates

Pitcher Olivia Price attempts to catch a line drive up the middle during the first game of a doubleheader Wednesday afternoon against SIUE. The Panthers won the game 6-5 in 11 innings, with Price picking up the win after pitching 8.1 shutout innings in relief.

Adam Tumino, Sports Editor

It took 11 innings, but the Eastern softball team snapped a nine-game losing streak against SIUE at home Wednesday. The 6-5 extra-inning win snapped the streak in the first game of a doubleheader against the Cougars, and a 10-2 win in game two now has the Panthers on a winning streak with six games to play in the regular season. In total, six hours and 13 minutes of softball were played at Williams Field on Wednesday.

Eastern and SIUE entered Wednesday with the same conference record at 6-14, and the Panthers are now two games up on the Cougars and in seventh place in the standings, putting them in a solid position to pick up a spot in the OVC Tournament.

During the losing streak, Eastern head coach Tara Archibald said that regaining confidence would be a key for the Panthers to get back on track. After the two wins Wednesday, she said that believes the confidence is back.

“I feel like they played EIU softball, our best softball, today,” she said. “We came out yesterday in practice and talked about starting these last eight games from a fresh start and coming out and playing our best version of ball, and I thought we did that today.”

The Panthers did fall behind early in game one, falling behind 5-0 in the third inning. The Panthers responded by sending eight batters to the plate in both the fourth and fifth innings, scoring three and two runs in those innings respectively, to pull even with the Cougars.

Then SIUE’s Mia Haynes and Eastern’s Olivia Price made sure the game would go beyond regulation. Price entered the game with two outs in the third inning and pitched the rest of the way for the Panthers. Haynes entered for the Cougars with one out in the fifth inning. Price threw 8.1 innings, allowing just two hits while walking four batters and striking out six. Haynes was strong as well, pitching six innings while allowing six hits, but was eventually unable to keep the Panthers off the board.

In the bottom of the 11th, Abi Stalhut led off with an infield single for the Panthers, followed by Lindy Milkowski reaching on a fielder’s choice on which no out was recorded. Maddie Swart advanced the runners to second and third with a sacrifice bunt before Kendall Fields was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out. Riley Dittmar then dropped a single into right-center field, driving in Stalhut and ending the three hour, 50 minute game nearly an hour and a half after game two was scheduled to start.

Archibald praised Price’s performance as one of the main reasons the Panthers were able to win the game.

“Olivia was so good for us today,” she said. “We don’t win that game if she doesn’t have that performance.”

Price said remaining consistent in the circle was an important part of her performance in the game.

“Well I have to keep a straight face pretty much and you can’t let anybody see emotion if I’m not getting the calls,” she said. “You’ve just got to keep a calm mind and let your defense work behind you.”

In game two, Eastern took an early lead on a first-inning double from Hannah Cravens that drove in Morgan Lewis. The Cougars took the lead back with a two-run home run in the top of the second. It was short-lived, as Eastern responded with three runs in the bottom of the inning. The Panthers then added four more in the fourth inning before Rachel Kaufman drove in two runs in the bottom of the sixth, giving the Panthers a walkoff win via mercy rule.

Kaufman started the game at first base and then pitched the final four innings in relief, allowing just two hits and striking out three. She was also 2-for-4 at the plate with two RBI.

Milkowski was 3-for-7 with four RBI across the two games, with all of her hits being doubles. Lewis was 5-for-10, including a 4-for-4 performance in game two with two steals and two runs.

The Panthers will head on the road this weekend for a three-game series against first-place Belmont. The Bruins are 17-5 in conference play this season. A doubleheader is scheduled for Saturday with games at 1 and 3:30 p.m. with the series finale set for Sunday at 1 p.m.

 

Adam Tumino can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]