Erika Bell’s clutch homer lifts Colonials to day-one split

Erika+Bell+celebrates+her+clutch+home+run+in+the+bottom+of+the+sixth.+Photo+Credit%3A+Ethan+Morrison

Erika Bell celebrates her clutch home run in the bottom of the sixth. Photo Credit: Ethan Morrison

By Tyler Gallo, Sports Editor

MOON TOWNSHIP– There was no shortage of offense in their series against Cleveland State on Tuesday, dropping 24 runs in the doubleheader, and the Colonials looked to continue that against Horizon League-leading Oakland in their weekend slate.

The Golden Grizzlies rolled over the Colonials 10-1 via the mercy rule in the first game, but some late-inning heroics in the second game staked the Colonials to a 4-3 win and a day-one split.

Head coach Jexx Varner noted the team’s incredible resiliency this season, especially in this series.

“The resiliency is something I am proud of, especially after a [rough] first few innings of the second game,” Varner said. “We didn’t look good, we hit a lot of balls hard but into their gloves. It could have taken a nasty turn after the mercy-rule in the first game, but Dana [Vatakis] settled in and helped us win.”

GAME 1: Golden Grizzlies 10, Colonials 1

In the first game of the doubleheader, Rachael Rhinehart (3-1, 3.11) opposed Sydney Campbell (5-2, 2.26) on the mound. Rhinehart attempted to expand upon her solid relief outing in the second Cleveland State game.

Things would not start easy for Rhinehart as Lauren Griffith stepped in and blasted her first home run of the season a third of the way up the NAC hill to give Oakland the early lead in a game they would never trail. Jen Krizka hit a dunker into shallow left that tipped off the glove of Brittney Seibert to double the Oakland lead.

Robert Morris quickly answered back as Kristyna Mala hit a deep fly ball, and as both outfielders collided ended up at third base. Faith Miller drove her in with a sacrifice fly.

Cammie Brummitt quickly made that point moot as she sent a fly ball to deep center that hit the top of the fence and bounced over for a home run, extending the Oakland lead to 4-1.

The Golden Grizzlies raced in front and never looked back, chasing Rhinehart in favor of Jane Garver. Garver didn’t fare much better, allowing a two-run single by Krizka into the dead zone in the outfield and making it a 6-1 game.

Rachel Zerona followed suit by lacing a hit into the gap that scored a run, getting thrown out at second in the process.

Jamie Squires put an exclamation point on a rough first game for Robert Morris, and the play defined the afternoon as she hit a deep fly ball that center fielder Alaina York had a beat on, making a jump to rob the home run but knocked it over the fence, making the lead 10-1.

RMU went down quietly after this, dropping the first game 10-1 via the mercy rule.

GAME 2: Colonials 4, Golden Grizzlies 3

Dana Vatakis (4-4, 3.44) toed the pitching circle against Emily Karas (0-4, 5.36) who was looking for her first win of the season. Vatakis was in search of a better performance than her six-run outing against Cleveland State.

Jen Krizka made things rough for Vatakis right away, smoking an RBI double into the gap to give Oakland another early lead.

A funky sequence of events resulted in another runner scoring. Jessie Munson struck out, but a wild pitch let her reach first base. She got to second on a fielder’s choice and then came around to score after she stole third and Erika Bell threw wide. Seibert made a great throw home, but Bell misplayed it and it was 2-0. The Grizzlies added another run on an error by second baseman Faith Miller.

The Colonials clawed their way back after an error in the fourth with Natalie Higgins and Erika Bell driving in runs to make it 3-2.

Bell, looking to make up for her error, did just that in the sixth. She fouled off several tough pitches before hammering a two-run homer to give the Colonials the late lead. Varner mentioned how important Bell has been to the team’s success this season.

“[Erika] has been unbelievable this year, her leadership, tenacity and competitiveness have grown this year,” Varner said. “She was bound and determined after that overthrow early on to make up for it. She does whatever it takes to help the team win.”

Dana Vatakis flourished on the mound in the second game, pitching seven innings, allowing just one earned run and striking out seven.

The teams will play another twin bill tomorrow starting at noon.