Offense comes alive in doubleheader as Colonials sweep Cleveland State

Natalie+Higgins+celebrates+her+grand+slam+in+the+bottom+of+the+fourth+inning+in+the+second+game+on+Tuesday.+Photo+Credit%3A+Tyler+Gallo

Natalie Higgins celebrates her grand slam in the bottom of the fourth inning in the second game on Tuesday. Photo Credit: Tyler Gallo

By Tyler Gallo, Sports Editor

MOON TOWNSHIP– After a quick road swing where they dropped three-of-four from Green Bay, softball was back in action for the first two games of a six-game homestand against Cleveland State on Tuesday in search of a two-game sweep.

There was no shortage of offense for the Colonials (10-8, 5-5 Horizon) as they notched a sweep of the Vikings (8-14, 3-7), scoring double-digit runs in both halves of the twin bill.

Head coach Jexx Varner was proud of the offensive output displayed after they struggled in Green Bay and the resiliency shown after being down 6-3 in the fourth.

“This series was closer to who we are [as a team] than last weekend, as Green Bay is a long and rough trip,” Varner said. “We built on our win in the fourth game of that series today. I am proud of their mental strength and toughness. Being down like that, you have to be mentally tough. It was a great day.”

GAME 1: Colonials 10, Vikings 2

Torrie Jenkins (2-2, 4.63 ERA) toed the pitching circle for Cleveland State in the first game and she would immediately make an impact on the other side of the ball. She was opposed by Madison Riggle (2-2, 4.12), who would try to match zeroes with her after a solid performance in their last home series.

Taylor Duncan led off the second inning with a walk, and Jenkins made Riggle pay by crushing a two-run homer to right field to give the Vikings an early lead.

Riggle escaped without further damage and the Colonials answered right back in the bottom half, loading the bases with one out, Alaina York hit a sacrifice fly, and then Kristyna Mala laced a single into center field to give the Colonials a 3-2 edge right back.

Natalie Higgins followed with another single, and a bad throw by the left fielder allowed two runs to score and made it a 5-2 game, chasing Jenkins in just the second inning in favor of Jenna Watts, and after an error by Sydney Bajusz, the score was 6-2.

The doors were completely blown off when Charlotte Grover stepped in and blasted a two-run shot to left to make it an eight-run inning for Robert Morris.

Five innings was all this game needed as Alaina York and Kristyna Mala both drove in runs in the fifth which came in after errors, ending the game via the mercy rule as the Colonials took the first game 10-2.

GAME 2: Colonials 14, Vikings 6

In the second game, Dana Vatakis (3-4, 3.11) was the starter for Robert Morris and she was opposed by Taylor Betz (2-4, 2.98). Betz was in search of a better performance than her counterparts in the first game, while Vatakis was attempting to continue her strong season.

The game certainly looked like a repeat of the first, as in the first inning, the Colonials tagged Betz for two thanks to a two-RBI single by Charlotte Grover to stake the Colonials to a 2-0 lead.

While it looked like it would be a repeat of the first game with Charlotte Grover tagging a two-run single off of Betz in the first, Cleveland State answered right back on the strength of consecutive RBI hits, with Kaelin Ettinger driving in a run on a single and Mackenzie Tucker knocking a two-run double into the gap in left-center and making the score 3-2 Cleveland State.

Kristyna Mala scored to tie it when a pitch skipped past catcher Courtney Fernette, but the tie didn’t last long thanks to Aly Packish stepping in and absolutely obliterating the full-count offering from Vatakis, sending it halfway up the North Athletic Complex hill and putting the Vikings in the lead once again.

The rest of the frame was not kind to Vatakis, who gave up a two-run double to center to Becky Hurosky, making the score 6-3. Rachael Rhinehart came in to relieve Vatakis following this.

A 6-3 deficit may seem intimidating, but it was not for the Colonials. They scratched across two runs on consecutive sacrifice flies in the third, and Rhinehart answered by putting up a zero on the mound.

In the fourth against new pitcher Jenna Watts, Madison Riggle hit a two-run single down the left-field line to give the Colonials the lead, and Kinsey Ventura added insurance by smoking a two-run, two-out double to the warning track to extend the lead to 9-6. A heads-up baserunning play by Danielle Jason made it a 10-6 ballgame, the second straight game of double-digit runs for Robert Morris.

The keynote hit of this inning was by Natalie Higgins. The Colonials batted around, and with the bases loaded, Higgins smacked a grand slam just over the left-field fence and made it a nine-run inning for Robert Morris.

Rachael Rhinehart shut the door in the top of the fifth, closing out Cleveland State via the mercy rule again as the Colonials earned a two-game sweep, stretching their record to 10-8.

The softball team will be back in action Friday and Saturday hosting Oakland.