KISSIMMEE, Fla. - The Simpson College softball team began its journey down in Florida on Saturday, sweeping its first two games with wins over New England College and Plymouth State.
Game One: Simpson 8, New England 0
The Storm (3-2) and the Pilgrims (0-1) were locked into a pitcher's duel early, with the first four innings producing just four total hits between the two squads. That all changed in the fifth inning, when the Storm exploded for five runs, collecting four hits, but also being aided by four Pilgrim errors.
Freshman Megan Heidelbauer connected on a single with two women on, giving the Storm a 1-0 lead. The Storm's next batter, Caelynn Obleton, grounded out, but a muffed throw trying to get Heidelbauer out allowed her to get to third base and Rylee Purvis to score. Heidelbauer extended the lead to 3-0 after another error allowed Ashlyn Steen to get to first base. Steen stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch before Maddie Luderman blasted a double into left center field, giving the Storm a 4-0 lead. Karlie Hill completed the damage with a single into right field, scoring Caroline Pellett, pinch running for Luderman.
Starting pitcher Taryn Barrick-Wessels continued to bamboozle the bats of the Pilgrims, throwing six innings of two-hit ball to go along with six strikeouts. After another three up, three down in the bottom of the fifth, the Storm got back to work on offense in the top of the sixth.
The Storm put together a two-out rally in the top half of the sixth. Cameron Martin singled, moving Purvis to second, starting the rally. Steen, who collected three hits in the game and reached on an error in her four plate appearances, singled to drive in Purvis to make the game 6-0. Steen stole second, allowing the pinch runner Obleton to score on the wild throw from the catcher. The inning was completed when Kate Kriegel singled up the middle, driving in Steen, making the game 8-0. The Storm were confirmed as winners via the mercy rule when Barrick-Wessels finished off the Pilgrims in the bottom of the sixth.
Game Two: Simpson 5, Plymouth State 4
The second game also featured an opponent playing its first games of the season. The Panthers (0-2) of Plymouth State opened its season just a couple hours earlier, being blanked by Rowan 8-0.
The Storm trotted out Madeline Petersen on the mound to start. After maneuvering around some first inning trouble, Petersen gave the Storm four innings of scoreless softball, as the sophomore combined with game one starter Barrick-Wessels to throw 10 scoreless innings.
The Storm started fast in the bottom of the first, with Steen continuing her fantastic day. Steen started with a leadoff single, before stealing yet another base and reaching third on an error. Kriegel then produced a sacrifice fly to drive in Steen, giving the Storm a 1-0 lead after the first.
In the second, the Storm doubled the lead, after Purvis drew a one-out walk and stole second. Purvis advanced to third on a groundout by Makayla Bryant and then scored on a wild pitch before the end of the inning.
The third inning brought more success for Simpson, loading the bases after a bunt single by Steen and two walks drawn by Kriegel and Luderman. The Panthers starting pitcher Alyssa Wilson then walked cleanup hitter Hill, driving in a run via a bases-loaded walk. The Panthers made a change, but the next Storm batter, Cameron Martin, ripped a two-run double into left-center field, driving in Kriegel and Luderman, giving the Storm a 5-0 lead. However, the Panthers limited the damage, after Alexis Ehlers flew out to center field and Martin got caught off second base, eventually letting them get out of the inning after a strikeout.
Not much action happened until the top of the sixth, when Sam McCann of Plymouth State hit a line-drive home run with two outs to cut the Storm lead to 5-1. The Panthers threatened again in that inning, with runners on the corners, but relief pitcher Sierra Franklin got Nicole LeBrun to fly out to end the inning.
The Panthers produced a rally in the seventh to severely threaten the game for the Storm. Emily Picard had a one-out single to make the score 5-2, before Mia Ly hit another single down the right field line to make the score 5-3. Picard advanced to third on the play and then scored on the next play, as the home run hitter McCann grounded out to Kriegel, leaving the Storm up just one run with one out to go. Kylee Tucker, who came in the game at the beginning of the inning to pitch, then eventually sealed the game for the Storm, getting Rachyl Parslow to chase on a high pitch for strike three, sending the Storm out 5-4 winners.
Barrick-Wessels and Petersen combined to allow just four hits and strike out 11 batters, while allowing no runs. Steen reached on all but one of her plate appearances, collecting five hits and scoring four runs. The freshman also showed her excellent speed, stealing five bases across the two contests, giving her nine on the season. Alexis Ehlers also collected three hits in the first game against the Pilgrims, as her team-leading batting average is now up to .571.
The Storm collected 16 hits in the two games, compared to 11 from their opponents. Simpson also limited their mistakes, committing only three errors, while their opponents made eight.
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