UPLAND, Ind. — After seeing its furious game one comeback go for naught, the University of Rio Grande softball team released its fury against host Taylor University in the nightcap of their non-conference doubleheader.
The RedStorm followed up a six-run second inning uprising in the nightcap with seven runs in the third inning and four more markers in the fourth en route to a 17-4 mercy rule-shorted win over the Trojans at Gudakunst Field.
Rio rallied from a 7-0 deficit in game one to take an 8-7 lead, but Taylor scored twice in its final at bat for a 9-8 triumph.
The RedStorm, ranked No. 23 in the NAIA preseason coaches’ poll, finished the day at 8-6 with the split.
The Trojans, who were among the other schools receiving votes in the same poll, closed the day at 3-1.
Junior Kelsey Conkey (Minford, OH) had two hits and five RBI in Rio’s game two victory, while sophomore Michaela Criner (Bremen, OH) had three hits and drove in three runs and freshman Mary Pica (Minford, OH) finished 2-for-3 with three RBI.
Sophomore Brooke Hoffman (Columbus Grove, OH) added two hits and two RBI to the winning effort, while freshman Aubrey Azbill (Miamisburg, OH) and sophomore Lexi Philen (Tallmadge, OH) both had two hits and one run batted in.
Senior Mallory Powell (Flatwoods, KY), who earned the win in the pitcher’s circle, helped her own cause with two RBI.
Powell’s two-run single capped off the six-run second, while Conkey had a two-run single and Pica hit a three-run home run – the first long ball of her collegiate career – in the seven-run third.
Conkey hit a three-run home run of her own to highlight the four-run fourth inning.
Taylor Wilson went 2-for-2 with two RBI in the loss for Taylor, while Davis Carter had two hits of her own. Both players had a double among their respective hit totals.
Lauren Kanai started and took the loss for the Trojans.
In game one, Taylor exploded for three first inning runs and four fourth inning markers against Conkey to take a 7-0 lead, only to see the RedStorm erupt for seven runs of their own in the fifth inning to tie the game.
Rio then took the lead in the top of the seventh when Conkey led off with a walk, was bunted into scoring position by Powell and scored on a two-out double to left by junior Carly Skeese (Newark, OH).
The dramatic rally to get the lead was short-lived for the RedStorm, though.
Junior reliever Kacee Jenkins (Jackson, OH) routinely retired each of the first two batters in the home half of the seventh before hitting Wilson with a pitch, surrendering a game-tying double to left-center by Kanai and a game-winning single off the bat of pinch-hitter Jacqueline Ryals.
Hoffman and Philen had two hits each for Rio in the loss, while freshman Kayla Slutz (Navarre, OH) had a three-run double, Criner had a two-run home run and Conkey hit a solo homer in the seven-run fifth.
Conkey didn’t factor into the decision, but had a rare off-day in the circle. The right-hander allowed eight hits, three walks and seven runs – all earned – over just four innings.
Erin Cozad had three hits, including a pair of doubles, and drove in two runs for the Trojans, while Hannah Castor went 2-for-4 with a run batted in.
Kanai, the last of three Taylor pitchers, earned the win.
Rio Grande is scheduled to return to action on Tuesday in a non-conference doubleheader at Bryan (Tenn.) College.
First pitch for game one is slated for 1:30 p.m.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.
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