Lincoln softball splits doubleheader with Lindenwood

The first Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association softball game of the season didn’t go so well for the Lincoln Blue Tigers.

But they did a good job making sure things didn’t snowball.

The Blue Tigers started Tuesday with a tough-to-swallow 3-0 loss in eight innings to the Lindenwood Lady Lions at Lincoln Field.

But the Blue Tigers came back and ripped the Lady Lions 8-0 in the nightcap, ending it after just five innings due to the run rule.

“To run-rule them, that’s even better than just winning,” Lincoln coach Nicole Stacey said. “We were on the other end of that stick many times in the past. That’s one thing we’re getting better at — being aggressive and keeping going and not just settling for a win.

“I’m proud of them for that second game.”

The Blue Tigers had a few decent chances to score in the opener, but were hampered by having just four hits. The best chance may have come in the fourth inning, when Erin Sommerer doubled and Brianna Akers reached on a bunt single. But a flyout and a groundout ended the uprising.

Lincoln kept it scoreless thanks to some terrific defensive plays: A diving grab of a foul popup by third baseman Joey Bunch in the third inning; an over-the-shoulder, running grab by left fielder Starr McLeod in the fourth; and a hustling play by pitcher Clair Lorenz on a bunt in the top of the eighth that narrowly put out the leadoff batter.

“Defensively we played well,” Stacey said. “(The Lady Lions) have a lot of speed and they weren’t able to take advantage of it because of our defense.”

But after Lorenz got that first out in the eighth, things went awry for the Blue Tigers. The Lady Lions, who had just four hits to that point, strung together four in a row, and five total, to score all three of their runs.

“They hit it in some gaps at the end, and that’s going to happen sometimes,” Stacey said.

Lorenz took the loss, giving up nine hits while walking two and striking out four.

“The first one, we were just out of whack,” Stacey said. “Even Clair struggled pitching-wise. That’s not the normal Clair for us.”

The only hits other than the aforementioned ones by Sommerer and Akers were a bunt single by Lauren McMinn and an infield single by Sam Kircher.

“That’s not our team — that’s not the way we hit,” Stacey said. “We were chasing balls and just trying to make contact instead of swinging hard.”

That was not the case in the second game, where the Blue Tigers scored in every inning. They got two runs in the first three innings and a single run in the fourth and fifth.

In the first, it was a two-run home run by Kircher that narrowly cleared the fence down the right-field line that did the damage.

Then a two-run error by the Lady Lions with two outs in the second helped Lincoln run the lead to 4-0.

It was another two-run homer — this one a laser by Shantae Duren that sped its way over the left-field fence — that made it 6-0 in the third.

“That’s the one thing I wanted them focused on in the second game — I wanted hard swings, aggressive swings. Don’t just try to make contact,” Stacey said. “That’s what they did and they played well.”

In the fourth, McMinn ripped a one-out triple and scored when Bunch lined a single just fair down the left-field line.

The Blue Tigers finished it in the fifth when Akers doubled and came in on a single by Amanda Coffelt.

Akers went 3-for-3 in the game, while Coffelt had two hits and one RBI.

McLeod scattered four hits to get the win, walking two and striking out two.

“Starr pitched one heck of a ball game,” Stacey said. “... She’s been really struggling this year to find her groove, to find that confidence. Down in Florida she pitched a good game, and now this game, this is the Starr I know. She kept the ball moving and kept everybody chasing.”

Lincoln is now 7-4-1 overall and 1-1 in the MIAA, while Lindenwood is 9-11 and 2-2.

The Blue Tigers return to action today, hosting William Jewell in a non-conference doubleheader starting at 1 p.m.

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