STERLING, Kan. - Bethel softball (17-20, 8-12) came into yesterday's double header at Sterling (17-29, 5-15) looking to wipe away the bitter taste of their six game losing streak, as well as put a cherry on top of what is already the best season in program history, by keeping their conference tournament hopes alive. Both teams kept it interesting during both games, but ultimately Bethel's bats proved to be too much for the Warriors to keep up with, and the Lady Threshers swept the series 6-5, 9-6.
Rylie Scudder (SO/Little Elm, Texas), Bethel's usual closer for the season, got the start for Game 1, and wound up pitching the first complete game of any Lady Thresher this season. She was able to keep Sterling's batters at bay to start things off, and gave Bethel's offense enough time to warm up and get going.
The top of the third was where Bethel was able to strike first for the game. Samantha Karten (FR/Perry, KS) led off the inning with a double to left-center. Trista Rich (SR/Junction City, Kan.) followed this up with being able to get on base off a misplayed grounder, and then was able to steal second. With both runners in scoring position, Madison McDowell (SO/Basehor, Kan.) grounded out to short, and was able to bring Karten home for Bethel's first run. Two batters later with a full count, Alyssa Sullivan (JR/Kansas City, Kan.) smacked a two-run homer over left-center field, her first of the year and gave Bethel a 3-0 lead.
The top of the fourth started out eerily similar, and just as effective for Bethel. Jeni Reichenberger (JR/Wichita, Kan.) started things out with a double, which was again followed by a batter making it on base off an error, this time Michelle Schrag (SO/Moundridge, Kan.). Just like if it was scripted out, Schrag was able to steal second and both runners found themselves in scoring position. Scudder was able to drop a single into center field, giving both Reichenberger and Schrag enough time to make it home and extend the lead to 5-0.
It was then Sterling's turn to wake up their bats, as they were able to drive home three runs in the bottom of the fifth, and then one more in the sixth to shorten Bethel's lead to 5-4.
Bethel was able to add one more insurance run in the seventh. McDowell led off with a double, and after two straight fly-outs by the Lady Threshers, Katie Schrag (JR/Haven, Kan.) was able to drive her home with a single into right field.
With a 6-4 lead, Scudder and the fielders were able to minimize damage and just allow one run in the seventh to squeeze out the 6-5 victory, and snapped their losing skid. This was Scudder's seventh win this season, breaking her already held single-season record for the Lady Threshers.
Game 2 looked like it might get a bit ugly for Sterling. McDowell led off the first inning with a double, followed by Leise Hoffman again being able to register a base hit off a bunt. With Hoffman taking second off a wild throw, Sullivan sent a sac fly into center field, advancing both runners with McDowell being the first runner home. Singles by Katie Schrag and Reichenberger, followed by a double by Michelle Schrag brought their lead to 4-0, but the hitting wasn't quite over. Krystin McKelpin (SO/Puyallup, Wa.) took a hearty swing on a 0-1 count, and sent the ball over the center field fence for a 2-run dinger.
Bethel held onto their 6-0 lead until the bottom of the third, when Sterling came charging back with four runs of their own. The Lady Threshers were able to tack on one run in the fourth after Hoffman worked her way around the bases and was able to score. Sterling added two more on their next turn at the plate, and Bethel's lead had been trimmed down to 7-6.
Bethel was again able to stretch the lead in the seventh, this time by way of a two-run double by Scudder with the bases loaded. With a 9-6 lead, Bethel made quick work of their last three outs and came away with the victory.
Bethel currently sits at 17-20, with a 8-12 conference record (now the most conference wins they have had in a season). They are currently in the eighth and final spot for the conference tournament, but hopes hinge heavily on this afternoon's double header between McPherson and Bethany, where losses by the Swedes boost their chances.