Chadron State College junior pitcher Gabby Russell allowed just five hits in 12.0 innings of softball on Wednesday, allowing no earned runs and recording two pitching wins in the delayed conclusion of a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference home series against Black Hills State University.
Russell earned a seven inning, complete-game shutout in game three of the series, which went 3-0 to the Eagles, before a 10-inning thriller turned CSC’s way on a walkoff RBI single by sophomore shortstop Bailey Marvel, to give the home team a 5-4 victory and a series sweep.
The doubleheader was postponed from April 17, due to inclement weather, and RMAC legislation this season allowed the teams to play two games on the 18th and two more on Wednesday.
“It was definitely my best pitching performance,” said Russell. “I just focused on one pitch at a time, adjusting to the umpires’ strike zones, and trusting the defense behind me the whole time, knowing that if the batter hit a ball, I could trust them to get the out. I love seeing the celebrations we do once we field the ground ball and get the out.”
Three hits and a BHSU error scored two unearned runs for the Eagles in the second inning of game three. Freshman first baseman Jessie Henchenski singled on to lead off, and senior designated player Bailey Rominger batted her to third on another single. When Rominger stole second during the next at-bat, a throw from the catcher resulted in a blocked ball when it clicked off the helmet of freshman second baseman Addison Spears, the batter. That gave Rominger third and scored Henchenski, by rule. Later, Rominger crossed home plate on a base hit by Marvel.
The third CSC run came on an RBI double by Mackenzi Kroll in the bottom of the sixth.
In game four, the Eagles once again took the first lead in the second inning, on an RBI hit by Rominger.
They matched their 3-0 lead from game three in the fourth. The Eagles loaded the bases with one out, following a single by senior left fielder Angelica Maples, a walk by Henchenski, and a fielder’s choice play which turned into a muffed throw at third. The second run of the game scored on a subsequent walk by Spears, and the third came in on a single by Marvel.
BHSU finally corrected things in the fifth inning. A two-run homer by freshman shortstop Bell Luebken, and a well-placed slap by junior pitcher Crystal Amaral both produced runs to tie the game at 3-3.
Three and a half scoreless innings passed, going into extras, before each team put a run across in the ninth.
In the Yellow Jackets’ case, it was an unearned run with two outs, when Spears failed to convert a double play throwing a potential third out assist into the dirt.
CSC strung together three base hits, and benefited from two more misplays by the BHSU defense, tying things at four apiece. A potential game-winning play at the plate was snuffed by a true throw from Black Hills’ senior second baseman Bryce Henricksen.
In the tenth, Henchenski walked, Rominger sacrifice bunted her to second, and Marvel batted her home. Another close play occurred at the plate on the game-winning score, as the BHSU center fielder launched a throw home in time to make a great play, but it bounced over the waiting glove of senior catcher Crystal Koch.
“It was huge,” said CSC Head Softball Coach Kaley Ness. “The beautiful thing about softball is that anyone can beat anyone on a given day, so going into today, we weren’t guaranteed two wins. If our team plays our game to the best of our ability, there’s not a team anywhere I wouldn’t put us up against. Even though we were wavering a little bit today, we fought through it. We needed these two games in order to be in a position to make the playoffs.”
Russell (4-2) finished allowing only two walks and fanning four BHSU batters.
Amaral (2-15) took the game three pitching loss, and senior Breanne Henricksen (0-9) recorded the loss in game four.
Black Hills State fell to 3-32 on the season, all in RMAC action.
Now 12-20 (12-16 RMAC), the Eagles prepare to host No. 16 Colorado Mesa University on Friday and Saturday, when the team will honor its three seniors, Angelica Maples, Ellie Owens, and Bailey Rominger.