DECATUR, Ill.—The Fontbonne University softball team hit the diamond for the first time in 2018 at Millikin, however, the Big Blue spoiled the Griffins search for its first win, taking game one 9-8 and game two, 8-3.
"I knew going into the season we could hit," said head coach Casey Cromwell. "What I didn't expect was to make seven errors. Defense wins ball games – we could have won game one and game two would've been much closer. There are a lot of positives to take to Arizona after today, three home runs from three different players, Maddy Strickland striking out more good hitters and Diamond Thomas did a good job for not having command of her best pitch."
"We all had our moments at the plate, we moved runners over when we needed to and stole some bases. Bottom line is if we make an error or less per game, we win."
Millikin 9 Fontbonne 8
In game one, the Griffins (0-2), scattered seven hits but committed five errors in the outing. The No. 4-5 hitters in Emelia Modglin and Strickland did some damage.
The duo combined to go 4-for-8 with three runs scored, five RBI and a homer each. Alleigh Kruse added two RBI of her own, while Maddie Cooksey, Kayla Winkler and Thomas contributed one hit each. Inside the circle, Strickland was dealt the loss after going 6.0 innings, allowing nine runs (five earned), on six hits and striking out five.
Millikin (2-0), meanwhile, got a solid pitching performance out of starter Cathy Lebryk. The hurler went 6.0 innings, allowing eight runs (three earned), on seven hits and sat down two Griffins. Gracie Brookens came out of the pen in the seventh and secured the victory.
At the dish, Alyssa Voegele went 1-for-3 with three RBI, while Chelsea Eads went 1-for-3 with two RBI of her own.
In the first inning, Cooksey led off with a walk. After a stolen base and a ground out, Kruse brought Cooksey home with a sacrifice fly to give them a 1-0 lead.
That score remained the same up until the home half of the third. Taylor Jordan earned a one out walk and moved up a base on a bunt single by Kailey Lyons. Two batters later, Alyssa Voegele doubled to left, plating the duo to make it 2-1. Kalli Farmer and Cheslea Eads went on to add RBI singles of their own to extend the Big Blue's lead out to 4-1.
Fontbonne got two of those runs back in the next half inning. Strickland helped herself out with a leadoff solo shot. Kayla Winkler then doubled and Thomas followed with a walk to put two runners on with one away.
After a ground out, Cooksey reached base on an error and that allowed Winkler to score, narrowing the deficit down to 4-3. In the top of the fifth, Strickland struck again, this time with an RBI double, plating Modglin to tie the game at 4-4.
The team continued its momentum into the sixth. After Thomas reached base on an error and moved up one on Emily Cardwell's sacrifice bunt, Cooksey ended up on first on a fielder's choice.
The two stole second and third, then the bases were loaded for Kruse after a Courtney Kedroski walk. Kruse scored Thomas on a sacrifice fly, giving Fontbonne its lead back at 5-4. Then, Modglin hammered a 3-run homer, extending the Griffins lead to 8-4.
However, in the bottom of the sixth, the Big Blue took a 9-8 lead, scoring five runs on just one hit as they were helped out by four Griffins errors. That proved to be enough for Brookens who closed the door on Fontbonne for the one-run win.
Millikin 8 Fontbonne 3
In game two, the Griffins compiled six hits as Cooksey, Kedroski, Kruse, Modglin, Strickland and Alyssa Pisarek had one each. Cooksey also homered and finished with a team-high two RBI. On the rubber, Isabel Hotop took the loss after allowing six runs in 0.1 innings of work.
Millikin, though ended with seven hits and four of its runs came off the bat of Jordan Hildebrand, who went 2-for-2 with a run scored and a homer. Brookens got the win again after going 4.0 innings, allowing one run on three hits. Madyson Stallcup picked up the save as she allowed two runs on three hits in 3.0 innings.
In the first, the Griffins took the early lead on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Strickland. In the bottom half of the first, the Big Blue scored six runs on two hits, highlighted by Hildebrand's grand slam to give them a 6-1 lead.
Millikin added two more runs in the fourth, stretching its lead to 8-1. Fontbonne tried one last push in the seventh as Pisarek kept the inning going with an infield single. Cooksey followed with a 2-run homer to cut it down to 8-3. However, despite its efforts the Big Blue hung on for the five-run win.
The team will now head on over to Tucson, Arizona, next week as they'll play 10 games in six days. First-up is Manhattanville and Pacific on March 2nd. Action is set for 3 p.m., followed by a 7:30 p.m., outing against Pacific.
Fans make sure to stay updated on fontbonnegriffins.com throughout the year for full updates and recaps on the softball team.