CANNONSBURG, Ky. — Michaela Criner had three hits and scored four times in a game one win, while clubbing a game two grand slam home run and helping the University of Rio Grande to a doubleheader sweep of Kentucky Christian University, Tuesday afternoon, at the Championship Fastpitch Softball Complex.
The RedStorm rolled to an 11-2 win in the opener, before holding off the host Knights, 7-6, in the nightcap.
Rio Grande extended its winning streak to six straight and ran its overall record to 24-10 with the sweep. Head coach Chris Hammond’s squad has won 16 of its last 18 outings.
Kentucky Christian, a member of the Mid-South Conference, dropped to 18-11 as a result of the two losses.
Criner, a junior from Bremen, Ohio, went 3-for-5 in the opener – including her nation-leading seventh triple – and drove in two runs.
Rio Grande sandwiched single markers in the first and third innings around a seven-run second inning uprising to take a 9-0 lead.
Sophomore Mary Pica (Minford, OH) finished 3-for-4 with a double and two RBI, while freshman Kenzie Cremeens (Ironton, OH) had a pair of hits and knocked in three runs.
Sophomores Kayla Slutz (Navarre, OH) and Morgan Santos (Dayton, OH) also had two hits each for the RedStorm, who pounded out 15 hits as a team.
Senior pitcher Kelsey Conkey (Minford, OH) improved to 9-4 on the season, allowing seven hits and two runs – only one of which was earned – over six innings. The right-hander also fanned six.
Katerina Anthony went 2-for-4 with a double and a run batted in for KCU, while Summer Collins also had two hits in a losing cause.
Lora Thompson started and took the loss for the Knights, allowing seven hits and eight runs in just two innings. She also walked four.
Game two was a pitcher’s duel through the first four innings between Thompson and Rio sophomore Raelynn Hastings (Commercial Point, OH), with the RedStorm taking a 2-1 lead into the fifth inning.
However, Rio scored five times in the top of the fifth – four of which crossed on a two-out grand slam by Criner – to open up a 7-1 lead.
Not to be outdone, the Knights rallied for five runs of their own in the home half of the frame to again close the deficit to just one run. Taylor Jording had the big blow in the inning with a two-out, pinch-hit three-run double.
Conkey nailed down the victory, though, retiring each of the six batters she faced over the final two innings – four by strikeout – for her second save of the season.
Hastings improved to 12-4, despite allowing seven hits and six runs over five innings.
Santos added a double to the winning effort for Rio, which was limited to just five hits.
Whitney McKay went 2-for-2 with a double and a run batted in, while Collins also had two hits in a losing cause for KCU.
Thompson suffered the loss, despite allowing only three hits and striking out seven over 5-2/3 innings. She issued six walks and was charged with six of the seven runs allowed.
Rio Grande is scheduled to return to action on April 12 when it heads to Pittsburgh, Pa. to face Carlow University in River States Conference play.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.