NORTH NEWTON, Kan. - Things are getting tight towards the end of the season in terms of who will earn the right to make the conference tournament, and Bethel did not do themselves any favors today when they hosted the University of Saint Mary Spires in a double header matchup, beginning at 1:00 PM. Both games featured early scores for the Spires, and both games included the Lady Threshers attempting to surrmount the odds with comebacks. Both games were also lost by Bethel, 8-7, although Game 2 did feature an extra 8th inning of action.
Everyone knows by now that it takes a little bit of warming up to get the engines going for Bethel, and this held true today. Saint Mary was able to drive in three runs in each of the second and third innings, meaning Bethel would have to try to come back from six runs down.
The Lady Threshers were able to make a bit of scoring happen in the bottom of the third, after Madison McDowell (SO/Basehor, Kan.) was able to reach on a single, followed by a bunt by Leisle Hoffman (SO/Wichita, Kan.) which her speed turned into a base hit. After the pair stole a base each, Katie Schrag (JR/Haven, Kan.) sent a single up the middle, and earned two more RBI's on the season, bringing the score to 6-2.
The Spires were able to tack on two more to make it 8-2. Rylie Scudder (SO/Little Elm, Texas) was brought in after this, and shut down any and all subsequent offense. In her 3.2 innings pitched, Scudder did not allow a single hit or run, while striking out three.
This put Bethel in as best a position as possible to try for the comeback. A huge 6th inning looked like that may have just been what the doctor ordered. Jeni Reichenberger (JR/Wichita, Kan.) opened it up with a walk, and was then moved to second after Scudder layed down the sac bunt. Michelle Schrag (SO/Moundridge, Kan.) was then able to bring her home with an RBI single, which she then took second on the throw. Another sac bunt, this time layed down by Samantha Karten (FR/Perry, KS), put Schrag at third but gave Bethel two outs. Bethel dipped into their magic stash, as Alyssa Sullivan (JR/Kansas City, Kan.) sent a shot to the shortstop, who bobbled it and allowed Schrag to reach home, bringing the score to 8-4. The hitting just kept going, as McDowell hit another single, putting runners at first and second. This setup Hoffman for the 2-run triple into deep right-center, her fourth triple of the year.
With the bottom of the seventh looming, Bethel was down 8-6 and would need to cook something up. After the first out, Reichenberger bashed her first home-run of the year, a solo shot over left field, bringing the score to 8-7. Scudder, not necessarily known for her big bat, brought it out with a double down the left field line. Kerrigan Simons (FR/Riley, Kan.) came in to replace Scudder as a pinch runner, and made it to third off a hit by Michelle Schrag. Things were looking good, and then a bunt layed down by Karten decided to pop up instead, allowing the third baseman to catch it, who in turn picked off Simons at third and ended the game as quick as it had become a game again.
Bethel took the hitting early into Game 2, despite Saint Mary's best efforts to string along the mid-game break, and then stretch both games with an unfathomable amount of subbing. Hoffman dropped a single down, and then reached second on a passed ball. Two batters later Kiera Broehl (JR/Wichita) popped a single into shallow center, and brought Hoffman home. Reichenberger went 3-4 in the second game, with her first hit being a single to center, and pushing Broehl to second. This setup Krystin McKelpin (SO/Puyallup, Wa.) with a double she muscled into deep left, and brought home two more runs.
Saint Mary immediately opened up their bats, scoring four in the second inning and taking the 4-3 lead. They then scored a single run in each of the third and fourth innings, while holding Bethel scoreless during this streak. They added one more in the sixth, before Bethel started swinging again.
After Katie Schrag reached on a walk, the Spires switched out pitchers and subsequently allowed the Lady Threshers to start rolling. Reichenberger sent a shot down the left field line, scoring a double for herself and reached third on the throw to home, while Schrag ran all the way home, bringing it to a 7-4 defecit. McKelpin then brought Reichenberger home on a single. After Michelle Schrag hit into a fielder's choice leading to McKelpin being forced out, she reached second on a passed ball. This gave Trista Rich (SR/Junction City, Kan.) the ability to make Bethel even richer on the scoreboard, bringing her in on a single through the hole a short stop.
Bethel went into the bottom of the seventh, down 7-6, and this time wouldn't be denied the opportunity to try for the win. A single by Sullivan followed by a double by Katie Schrag put both on third and second, respectively. Reichenberger continued her clutch streak, with a single though the hole at shortstop and notting it up at 7-7. Bethel was forced into three outs, and extra innings were to be had.
Saint Mary scored on the tie breaker rule which gives each team an automatic baserunner on second to begin the 8th inning, meaning Bethel went into the bottom of the eighth down 8-7. With Karten standing at second, Michelle Schrag layed down the sac bunt, putting her at third base. The magic immediately dried up, as the following Bethel batters struck out, ending the game again with Bethel losing 8-7.
As it stands right now, Bethel is 9th in the conference standings, with only two double headers remaining to try to get into the Top 8, which would clinch their program's first conference tournament appearance. Good news is that their final away matchup is at Sterling on Saturday, who are currently 10th. Game time begins at 1:00, in Sterling.