Madison Riggle’s solo shot helps Colonials earn split against UIC

Madison+Riggle+rounds+the+bases+following+her+home+run+in+the+second+game.+It+stood+as+the+game-winning+run+against+UIC.+Photo+Credit%3A+Tyler+Gallo

Madison Riggle rounds the bases following her home run in the second game. It stood as the game-winning run against UIC. Photo Credit: Tyler Gallo

By Ethan Morrison, Assistant Sports Editor

MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa.– Softball looked to remain hot against UIC this afternoon in a doubleheader with RMU taking nine of their last eleven games and UIC winning seven in a row.

The Colonials (17-11, 12-8 Horizon) and the Flames (17-13, 14-6) battled hard in both games and earned the split Friday evening, with UIC winning 6-5 in game one and the Colonials narrowly winning 2-1 in the second game.

Coach Jexx Varner spoke on how it felt to get the series split against top talent in the Horizon League.

“It’s great, even after leaving game one after the loss, knowing we can [do battle] with the top teams in the conference. There’s nothing to be scared about when we step onto the field, we own where we are, and [the team] responded well in game two.

GAME 1: Flames 6, Colonials 5

Madison Riggle (4-3, 3.67 ERA) was in the circle for the Colonials to start the game and worked a painless first inning, producing weak contact at the top of the Flames order.

Just like UIC in the top half of the inning, the Colonials failed to produce any base runners in the bottom half of the first against Christina Toniolo (3-6, 3.12).

In the top half of the second, the Flames drew two walks and legged out an infield single, striking first with the bases loaded. Maddie Spinks drove the first two runs of the ballgame in off of Madison Riggle as she grounded one right up the middle past infielders Faith Miller and Brittney Seibert.

The Flames tacked on two more in the inning as Dee Dee Caskey drove in Cassie Kaelber on a sac fly, and Kayla Wedl split the gap and slid into third for a triple to put the Flames up four. Varner mentioned the up and downs Riggle has gone through.

“I think that’s what Madison has done, she’ll have her moments but she does a great job responding and she’s just that strong,” said Varner. “If she loses one pitch like against Oakland, her response, her maturity, her growth really show, and we saw that in game one.”

To start the bottom half of the fourth inning, Faith Miller tripled down the right-field line to give RMU the first scoring chance of the game. Natalie Higgins cashed in on the opportunity to cut the lead with three on an RBI single. Erika Bell singled to the right side which advanced Higgins to second. Madison Riggle reached on an error by third baseman Cassie Kaelber which allowed Higgins to score and set up runners at the corners with nobody out.

Then with one out in the inning, Rachel Rhinehart broke for second on the steal. Due to a throwing error by Emma Crowley, Bell trotted home and brought the Colonials within one run.

Avery Winchell knotted the game up as she doubled down the right-field line.

It seemed as pitcher Christina Toniolo was rattled, as she nailed Alaina York with a pitch square in the back following Winchell’s double.

After a crazy fourth inning for the Colonials, both team’s bats cooled off as both pitchers posted goose eggs in the fifth inning.

Madison Riggle and Rachael Rhinehart started off the bottom of the sixth with back-to-back singles then Brittney Seibert laid down a beautiful bunt and beat out the throw to load the bases.

Avery Winchell then popped out to first in foul ground and some heads-up baserunning by Natalie Higgins gave the Colonials a one-run advantage.

Samantha Ferguson tied the game up in the top half of the seventh with a sac fly which allowed Caskey to score on a questionable call as Caskey seemingly left third early. UIC took the lead with yet another sac fly by Emma Crowley.

The Colonials failed to tie the game up at seven as Marley Hanlon set the middle of the order down to end the game.

GAME 2: Colonials 2, Flames 1

Game two was night and day compared to the first game, as both pitchers battled it out in a steller pitchers duel. Dana Vatakis got the last laugh in this one pitching a complete game and only allowing one run in the winning effort.

Varner spoke about the Vatakis’ effort in this game, “Dana is lights out, she is one of the best out there in this conference and she showed it today handling what we needed her to do and she is growing and maturing, having some good starts when we need her to.”

Vatakis (6-4, 3.64) took the circle for the second half of the twin bill action on Friday as Alyssa McIntosh (0-3, 4.84) was on the opposite end for the Flames.

After a quiet first and top half of the second, the Colonials went quiet after loading the bases with Kristyna Mala striking out to end the inning.

It took until the third until anyone broke the scoreless tie. RMU struck first as Natalie Higgins took Alyssa Mcintosh deep to left field with one out in the inning. The Colonials weren’t done there, as designated player Madison Riggle almost cleared the hill in left-center field to extend the Bobby Mo lead to two.

Emma Crowley reached an error that brought Kayla Wedl in to score for UIC in the top of the fourth to bring the score to within one run.

Dana Vatakis was in some danger in the top of the sixth inning, but she tight roped herself out of the jam, stranding two and holding the one-run lead.

Though UIC made solid contact throughout they couldn’t tie the game up late as the Colonials took the second game 2-1.

Both teams will continue the series tomorrow with more twin-bill action ahead. The first pitch is scheduled for 12:00.