Softball sweeps SIUE in OVC home opener


Han Byer

The Eastern softball team sings the EIU Fight Song to the crowd after sweeping SIUE in their home-opener double-header against SIUE on Sunday afternoon on Williams Field.

Kate Stevens, Assistant Sports Editor

The Eastern softball team will stay atop the Ohio Valley Conference standings after sweeping SIUE 1-0 and 5-2 in a doubleheader at its home opener Sunday afternoon at Williams Field. 

The team moved to 5-0 in conference and 16-12 overall.

After having multiple adjusted starting times and cancellations, the Panthers were finally able to host their home opener.

Head coach Tara Archibald said she and the team were ready to finally play at home.

“Finally,” Archibald said. “I think the girls were super excited to be able to finally get to play in front of their home crowd and get out on our field.”

Right-handed pitcher Rachel Kaufman led the Panthers in the first game and Olivia Price led the way in the second game. Kaufman allowed just three hits and struck out four batters.

Her game ERA was 0.0.

Price also earned a win in the second game as she recorded five strikeouts and had a game ERA of 1.0.

The first game was a battle of the pitchers as SIUE’s pitcher Kelsey Ray allowed 7 hits and had four strikeouts. 

There was no scoring action between the teams until the bottom of the seventh inning where EIU’s Lindy Milkowski was in as a pinch hitter and hit a single down the rightfield baseline allowing Marama Makea to run home and score, giving EIU the walk-off 1-0 win.

There were two back-to-back weather delays during the second game, allowing only half an inning to take place between them. The difference between the games was night and day as the first game was sunny and the second was dreary and rainy. This did not deter the Panthers from focusing on getting another win for the day.

The teams battled it out for three innings  before the first delay was called. The game was tied at 1-1. The teams made their way back out and played part of the top of the fourth inning and the second delay was called. 

After the second delay, the teams came back out again and were able to finish the game.

Archibald said the team took advantage of the delays and kept focus on getting back out to the field and completing the game.

“The first delay, I thought we handled it really well,” Archibald said. “The second delay when we came in, I was a little worried that our mentality would be ‘not again, kind of tired of it.’ And then, you know, we really took some time and refocused. I thought they handled that well when they came back.”

Once the teams got to the bottom of the fourth inning, the Panthers were down 2-1. The Panthers saw a shift in momentum as they were able to score four runs in the fifth inning that put them up 5-2. 

They forced SIUE to change pitchers as Riley Dittmar scored. After the change, Rachel Kaufman, Jaylen Prichard, and Aryn Henke all scored as well. Archibald was proud of the team’s ability to get up on SIUE after the delays.

“To be able to answer that and put that dagger and not just get one to tie it, but two out RBI’s,” Archibald said. “One thing we’ve talked a lot about is to win ballgames, you got to have out RBIs and to continue to get those, I thought Aryn Henke was really huge for us right there to tie it and then to just keep putting the runs up. They helped us out a little bit there, but to keep putting the runs up, I thought that was big time.”

Getting those runs ultimately secured the win for the Panthers as Price was able to not allow any runs in the 6th or 7th inning.

Archibald said the team had a good day even with all of the prior adversity of cancellations and then with the two delays during the second game.

“I thought it would have been really easy for them to lay down, but I thought they fought really, really hard and just a really good team day for us,” Archibald said. “I thought we won in a lot of different ways with good pitching, good defense, and we got some timely hits.”

She also said she is happy with an OVC sweep and hopes that the team continues playing at this level.

“It was huge,” Archibald said. “Anytime you can sweep an OVC opponent, that’s a big deal. And they’ve put themselves into a good spot right now. We’ve just got to continue to trust our process and do what we do.”

The Panthers will travel to St. Louis for a Wednesday evening single-game matchup with Saint Louis University at 4 p.m. 

They will resume OVC play this coming weekend as they travel down to Nashville for a series with Tennessee State.


Kate Stevens can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]