The Emporia State softball team played two very different games on Saturday afternoon, but came away with the same result — a win.
ESU swept Nebraska-Kearney on its Senior Day, rallying in the seventh for an 8-7 victory in the opener before rolling to an 11-6 victory in game two.
The Hornets bats were alive and well in both ends of the double-dip, but struggled with the big hit in the first six innings of play.
“I’m really proud of them because that’s what we talked about in the locker room in between games (was) that we left a lot of runners on base again and we have to be able to execute,” ESU head coach April Rosales said. “We should be run-ruling that team if we have 14 runners left on base.”
“We still left some (in game two) but at least we were able to come up with some clutch hits in certain situations and it took the pressure off our pitchers a little bit more.”
UNK had leads of 1-0, 2-1 and 4-2 in the first game before the Hornets started to put things together at the plate after stranding nine in the first five frames. In the sixth, ESU took the lead with some small ball, including two walks and three bunts. The Lopers returned the favor in the top half of the seventh, plating a trio of unearned runs to take a 7-5 advantage.
But ESU had won at least one game in each of its previous four home doubleheaders in its final at-bat.
It wanted to keep that streak alive and well.
With one out in the seventh, senior Kenzie Garvin walked, stole second and came around on a single to center by Gabby Biondo, who herself soon swiped second base. A single from Rachel Kauss put runners at the corners for Hannah Steeby, who had won a game on Wednesday with a seventh-inning homer. The Hornets settled for a game-tying double and the Hornets finished the comeback with a grounder to the left side, which brought an errant throw home that allowed the winner to score.
Steeby was 3-for-5 with two RBIs and a run, while Biondo and Kauss both had two-hit games.
The second game saw ESU trail 2-0 when it came to the plate in the second, but the Hornets put up a five-spot and added another three in the third to all but put the game away.
Senior Valerie Kinney, who has spent most of her career as a backup corner infielder and pinch-hitter, started both games in right field, going 2-for-5 with 5 RBIs and two runs scored.
“It feels incredible,” Kinney said. “This program has meant so much to me the past four years. Just to come out ... it feels so surreal that (there are no more) home games, so it’s awesome we could go out with some wins.”
ESU (20-21) has 10 remaining games, eight in conference play, but all will also be on the road as ESU continues to make a late season push for an MIAA Tournament spot.
“Hopefully, we can continue,” Kinney said. “We have some big games next week with Northeastern (State) and UCO, they’re really hot in the MIAA right now. (We) hope that we can continue the hard work (and get the results) that we have worked for.”