NCAA SOFTBALL: SMSU suffers two crucial defeats

MARSHALL – The Southwest Minnesota State softball team dropped a pair of tough home games to Upper Iowa on a windy day in Marshall on Friday.

The Peacocks won 2-1 in Game 1 and finished off the Mustangs 7-3 in Game 2 to sweep the doubleheader.

For SMSU coach Jamie Dunn, it came down to the lack of being able to put together a complete game.

“We just couldnt score runs,” Dunn said. “We just couldn’t put it all together. In the first game, we had a solid pitching performance from Rachel Hoeppner and our bats just couldn’t get going. We got a few hits, we just coudn’t get runs when we needed to.”

The Mustangs struck first in the second game, but then they struggled in the field, committing three errors that helped the Peacocks take the lead back in the top of the third.

Upper Iowa coach Amanda Bradberry was impressed with her teams approach at the plate during this doubleheader.

“We havent had confidence walking up to the plate, lately,” Bradberry said. “I just told them to trust themselves at the plate and have some confidence.”

Game 1

Upper Iowa 2, SMSU 1

SMSU had its chances early in the game, but came up empty. The Mustangs had runners in scoring position with less than two outs in the first, third, fifth and seventh innings, but only came up with one run and left seven on base.

The start of the seventh inning looked like SMSU would come from behind to win as the Mustangs got a leadoff walk from Kailey Hanson and Katelyn Kalkman followed with an infield single.

With runners on first and second and nobody out, Chelsey Rodenkirch flied out to deep right, which allowed Hanson to move to third. With runners at the corners and one out, Hanson scored on a throwing error by the catcher, but Kalkman was thrown out at third, trying to advance all the way to third from first. Elissa Reinsma grounded out to end the game.

Rodenkirch led SMSU with two hits as she finished 2-for-4. Hanson went 1-for-2 with a run scored and a walk.

Rachel Hoeppner was tagged with the loss even though she was sharp throughout her seven innings of work. Hoeppner scattered nine hits over said seven innings and struck out two.

Game 2

Upper Iowa 7, SMSU 3

SMSU was held to three hits by starting pitcher Brooke Redmond, who improved her season record to 11-10 by earning the win.

Redmond threw seven complete innings, allowing just three hits and two earned runs while walking one and striking out six.

Alex O’Connor dropped to 4-13 overall on the season as Upper Iowa tagged the freshman for six runs – just two earned – on nine hits, one walk and one strikeout in five innings pitched. Hoeppner worked two innings of relief and allowed an unearned run on two hits.

Rodenkirch blasted her third home run of the season in the third inning to close the gap to a 4-3 deficit after the Peacocks put three on the board in the top half.

Rodenkirch finished 1-for-2 with two runs, a walk and a RBI. Karmann Carroll and Kalkman were the only other Mustangs to pick up hits for SMSU in the loss.

Roundup

Despite the fact that these were two big losses for the Mustangs, Rodenkirch was confident that the team is still in the game mentally.

“We’re all pretty even-keeled, Rodenkirch said. “When somebody makes an error in the field, we’re always there picking each other up. That’s really not an issue right now.”

SMSU (11-26-1, 8-13-1) will conclude the 2014 home schedule today with a doubleheader versus No. 25-ranked Winona State starting at 12 p.m.

The twin-bill will be the final home doubleheader for two Mustangs – Jennifer Johnson and Kaley Scearcy.