May 2, 2014

Softball Splits on Day 1 of HCAC Tourney; Faces Bluffton Saturday

ANDERSON, Ind. -- The Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology softball team relied on some late game dramatics to lift the Fightin' Engineers to a thrilling 4-2 victory over Bluffton University Friday in the opening round of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament.

Rose-Hulman (19-15). the 3-seed, fell in the day's second round game in a 12-3, five-inning loss to top-seeded Anderson (28-7),

The Engineers will face a familiar foe in Bluffton on Saturday in an HCAC elimination game beginning at 11 a.m. 

RHIT and Anderson split earlier this season, with the Engineers handing the Ravens their lone league loss of the season in a 2-1 doubleheader-opening win April 15. Anderson won the nightcap, 9-2. 

In Friday's opener, Junior Chris Rollins (Springfield, Ohio/Springfield) delivered the biggest hit of the game when she belted a two-run home run over the left center fence to give the Engineers a 4-2 lead in the top of the seventh.

The home run -- the first for Rollins this season and only the second of her career -- followed a Marissa Stout (Terre Haute, Ind./South Vigo) sacrifice fly that scored senior Jenna Martinek (Troy, Mo./Troy Buchanan) tagging from third to tied the game at 2-all.

Martinek singled to open the inning and junior Carly Heibel (Fort Wayne, Ind./Lakewood Park Christian) doubled to left center to put two on with nobody out and the Engineers trailing, 2-1.

The Beavers (24-16) were able to get runners at the corners with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, but Heibel forced the final Bluffton batter into a groundout back to her in the circle to end the game.

The Engineers struck first in the first inning, when senior Allison Bowman (Fort Wayne, Ind./R Nelson Snider) singled through the left side with the bases loaded to score Martinek, who doubled.

Bluffton responded with two runs in the bottom of inning when Emily Kolezynski singled and a throwing error on the play allowed Ariana Muffo (walk) to score. The Beavers added their second run on a Jo Bondra groundout that scored Brittany Baker, who walked.

Heibel (12-4) picked up her 12th win of the season in the circle for the Engineers, scattering five hits, walking two, and allowing just one earned run.

Bluffton's Chloe Shell (11-8) took the loss, giving up 10 hits, four runs and walking five.

Martinek finished 3-for-4 with a double and two runs scored to lead RHIT, who also got two hits from Rollins, who added a single in the sixth inning.

Janel Lake (Okawville, Ill./Okawville) and Ellissa Eckert (Sugar Grove, Ill./Kaneland) added hits, with Eckert drilling a double in the fourth.

Against Anderson, the Engineers struggled early, giving up seven runs -- none of them earned -- in the second inning. The Ravens capitalized off of three Rose-Hulman errors in the frame and used doubles by Taylar Kelso and Morgan Burke to do even more damage. 

The Engineers responded in the bottom of the second with another home run from Rollins, who swung for her second long ball in as many games -- and at bats -- with a deep shot over the centerfield wall. Rose-Hulman added two more runs in the third, when junior Jessica Ahlborn (Houghton, Mich./Houghton) drilled a pitch over the left field fence for a two-run home run. 

Anderson though, would get five more runs in the fourth to put the game out of reach. 

Live stats will be available for Saturday's contest at http://client.stretchinternet.com/client/rhit.portal# and live audio will be provided at http://mobile.stretchinternet.com/listEvents.htm?clientID=51

The winning team of Saturday's opener will advance to the 1 p.m contest to face Anderson, with a 3 p.m. game scheduled if necessary. Anderson will have to be beaten twice in order for either Rose-Hulman or Bluffton to win the HCAC championship.