NCAA SOFTBALL: Wayne State takes close ones vs. SMSU

MARSHALL – Solid pitching and timely hitting helped Wayne State sweep a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference doubleheader from Southwest Minnesota State, 4-0 and 3-2, on Wednesday at Mustang Field.

Sara Scheffert (11-7) pitched for a victory in Game 1 and earned her first save of the season in Game 2, leading the Wildcats (26-10 overall, 12-2 NSIC) to a pair of wins in the twin-bill. In all, she tossed 10 scoreless innings, allowing seven hits and one walk with eight strikeouts.

Scheffert shut out SMSU on five hits in Game 1, throwing 1-2-3 frames in the second, fifth and sixth innings. She entered Game 2 with Wayne State holding a 3-2 lead in the fifth before yielding no runs and only two hits the Mustangs the rest of the way.

“When you hold a team to six or seven hits (in a doubleheader) you give yourself a good chance to win,” Wayne State coach Krista Wood said.

SMSU, which finished with nine hits Wednesday, stranded 11 baserunners, including six in the second game.

“All season long, we have struggled to find a timely hit,” Southwest Minnesota State coach Jamie Dunn said. “I think we can be better at the plate, if we become more selective in the pitches we swing at. Our hitters need to do a better job of recognizing situational hitting, like hitting the ball behind runners and guiding it there.”

The Wildcats, who went ahead 3-0 behind Game 2’s winning pitcher Kelcie Bormann, scored all three of their runs in the third inning. Kati Williams drove in two runs with a one-out double down the left field line before Bormann helped own cause with an RBI single to center field.

It stayed that way until the fourth, when the Mustangs plated a pair of runs with the aid of two hits and two Wayne State errors. Jennifer Johnson broke up the Wildcats’ shutout with an RBI single up the middle that scored Jazmyne Neely, who had reached on a fielding error and advanced to second on a throw miscue.

With one out and Shelbie Stoll standing on third, Karmann Carroll laid down a bunt that sent Stoll to home plate, where she slid under the tag of Wayne State catcher Megan Hagemann. But SMSU failed the tie the game despite leaving runners and second and third.

Wood decided to put Scheffert back in the pitcher’s circle in the fifth – a move that stopped Southwest Minnesota State from scoring any more runs.

“We had our chances to score, but didn’t find the hits to drive in our runners,” Dunn said. “Overall, it was a great effort by our team because we battled hard against one of the top teams in our conference. Wayne State leads the league in home runs and we kept their bats inside the park.”

Kylee Simpson’s bases-loaded single in the second inning of Game 1 scored Sam O’Brien with the only run Scheffert needed. The Wildcats received a two-run single from Bormann with two outs in the fifth for a 3-0 lead before pinch-hitter Shelby Wobken delivered an RBI single in the sixth to give Wayne State an insurance tally.

Dunn was happy with Mustang pitchers Rachel Hoeppner and Alex O’Connor, who both turned in solid complete-game efforts.

“Rachel kept the ball down in the strike zone and that was the key for her,” Dunn said. “Alex struggled because she was getting behind in counts, but she only walked one. If we can get pitching like this, we will be in every game.”

Hoeppner (4-10) allowed four earned runs on nine hits with three walks and three strikeouts. O’Connor (3-12) gave up three earned runs on six hits with one walk and four strikeouts.

The Mustangs (7-22-1, 4-9-1 NSIC) travel to play a league doubleheader at Bemidji State at 1 p.m. Saturday.