LAWRENCE — The Emporia State softball team has yet to play many true doubleheaders this spring.
Possibly even more frustrating for the Hornets, they’ve yet to find traction early in any of them.
On Saturday, the Hornets continued that trend, splitting their twinbill with Washburn. The Ichabods took an early lead and held on for a 6-3 victory before ESU came to life in the nightcap with a 9-1 mercy-rule win.
In the first game, runners were aplenty for ESU, but runs were not. The Hornets stranded runners in scoring position in each of the first four frames. Washburn meanwhile, scored once in the bottom of the first and added three in the fourth.
ESU’s sole tally through five came on a wild pitch.
It was the sixth inning when the Hornets finally got their offense up and running.
“From the time I’ve took over this job, we’ve had speed on this team and I want to take advantage of that,” ESU head coach April Rosales, now in her fourth year, said. “We can make the other teams make errors based on our speed alone and I think that’s something that happened tonight. We’ve been talking about (not being) satisfied with one base. Even if it’s a single, maybe we can get two bases. If it’s (an easy) double, maybe we can get three bases.
“That’s something they really took to heart ... especially in that second game.”
The baserunning may have won the second game, but it started just a little too late in the first.
Kailee Odegard opened the sixth with a walk and stole second before Destiny Ojigoh also drew a free pass. Rachel Kauss singled to center, almost creating chaos when Odegard held up at third, with the two trail runners catching the brake sign late. All worked out for ESU when the attempted series of rundown throws ended with the ball at the backstop and a run in for the Hornets. Ojigoh came home soon after on another rundown play that ESU survived, cutting its deficit to three.
Emporia State got the tying runs to the plate in the seventh, but couldn’t find the big hit it needed.
The Hornets didn’t even wait for the big hit in the first inning of game two. They simply took advantage of a number of little ones.
A series of infield choppers, bunts and two Washburn errors opened the gates for a three-spot in the first, Hannah Steeby adding the only extra base hit of the game for ESU with an RBI triple.
In the top of the fourth, ESU’s baserunning carousel took charge. With the bases loaded and one out, an attempted forceout at the plate turned into two runs as the ball got by the catcher. All the while, Brittany Shepherd moved up to second when the infield was caught off guard and failed to cover the bag. Another hurried throw from third allowed Garvin to reach second and Rachel Kauss to come home. Biondo put down a bunt single, stole second and scored on a bases loaded walk.
When all the dust had settled, ESU had itself a six-run frame, with just two hits, only one of which reached the outfield.
“We have to continue to put pressure on (other teams),” Rosales said. “That’s what the girls did, especially in that big inning was — we used our speed, which we’ve been trying to do all year. We didn’t really get the ball out of the infield that much. We bunted a lot in that inning and we were able to make it happen. We have to realize we can get it done in a number of ways.”
Meanwhile, in the circle, junior Kelsey Phillips was locked in, allowing just four hits and one earned run in five innings. She picked up her third winning decision in arguably her most effective start of the season to date.
“She did a great job,” Rosales said. “Kelsey struggled in (her last start), we had some two-strike counts (and didn’t finish). We focused more on that, we focused on working the ball off the plate and I thought she made great adjustments. She had a couple innings (that) she couldn’t get her rise ball working, so we just switched up some things and went with the high screw instead and that paid (dividends) at the end, they started chasing a little bit more.”
Phillips just took note of how the team stepped up around her in response to a deflating start to the day.
“I think our reaction to the first game was definitely an improvement,” Phillips said. “Energy-wise ... as a whole and I think that played into how many (baserunners) we got (and) just playing off each other’s energy.”
“When I see my teammates being so aggressive and backing me up, getting runs on the board for me to be more confident and comfortable in the circle, that fires me up. Absolutely.”
ESU tallied just four hits as a team in the five-inning win, though Garvin and Biondo both scored twice. The Hornets were also 4-for-5 in stolen base attempts on the day.
Emporia State (6-15, 2-4) will travel to St. Joseph, Mo., for six games at the Hyvee Classic Tournament next weekend.