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Softball captures monumental victory over Colonels

Talia Gennarelli / msueagles.com

The Morehead State softball team snapped a 21-game slide on Wednesday and collected a number of individual season bests in a 3-1 home-opening victory over eastern Kentucky at University Field.

"I'm extremely excited for this group of ladies as they did an outstanding job of putting both the offense and defensive portions of the game together," said MSU head coach Samantha Jones, who collected her first win over the Colonels. "Not only did we have some timely hits by Maddi Gailor, Alexis Strother, Ilencia Lightbody, Ieesha Christian, but defensively they were lights out."

Led by the offense of Madeline Gailor, a junior right fielder, and the pitching of sophomore Lennon Spicer, the Eagles toppled the Colonels for the first time since 2015 (a streak of 14 straight games) and the first time at home (a stretch of nine consecutive contests) since 2011. It also was just the team's third win against eku in its last 24 meetings.

Gailor drove in all three of MSU's runs, while Spicer struck out 10 batters to lead Morehead State (1-15) to the victory. Both statistics were career-highs for the Eagle players.

"We really just capitalized on the pitchers, (they) really weren't throwing anything special so we just capitalized on the first-pitch strike that (they) were throwing a lot, and just finding our pitch and driving it. I thought we had really good at-bats today," Gailor said. "The offense just did a really good job of getting runners on base every single time."

Gailor has been on fire of late at the plate. She entered the day with three RBI for the season, all three of which came during the team's two previous outings.

"They were just throwing me a lot inside, so I tried to capitalize on that," she added. "I just tried to capitalize with runners on base, and I had runners on base when I was up to bat. So, (I was) just trying to help out the whole team, just keep the inning going, and just (score) some runs to help Lennon out, because she pitched a great game."

Despite the team's losing streak, Wednesday was actually the second straight home victory for MSU. The team's first two scheduled doubleheaders at University Field this spring were rained out. The last time the Eagles played in Morehead, they defeated Jacksonville State 3-0 last April.

"I just feel like playing at home was like a huge confidence booster," Spicer said. "We had a lot of people here that were cheering us on even though it is Spring Break. We had some students come, which was super cool, to just support us, and I just think being at home and being on our own field like it just gives you more confidence.

"Coming in to this we were 0-15," she added. "So, at this point to us we were like we really have nothing else to lose, just go out and play our absolute hardest and do whatever we can as hard as we can."

Like it has done on several occasions this season, Morehead State scored in the first inning. Christian, the freshman left fielder, led off the frame with an infield single and Gailor followed with a double into the gap in right center which sent Christian home.

eastern Kentucky (4-19) countered with a run in the top of the second after junior designated player Lou Bowers singled to left center and freshman pitcher Lauren Narvaez hit a ground ball up the middle to drive in Bowers two batters later.

Morehead State continued to mount a threat throughout the next few innings by putting a runner on base in each, before breaking through again in the bottom of the fourth.

Senior third baseman Peyton Rose led off the frame by being hit by a pitch for the Ohio Valley Conference-leading ninth time this spring. Lightbody, a freshman second baseman, followed with a double to right center. With two outs, Gailor drove a double into left field that plated Rose and Lightbody.

Both teams continued to create scoring chances throughout the remainder of the game. eku mustered a late threat with two outs in the top of the seventh after a pair of base hits, but sophomore catcher Ariyana Miranda popped a ball up a few steps into the grass that junior shortstop Kirya Kingery caught to end the game.

Every Eagle who came to the plate reached base at least once as the hosts got runners on the bags in every inning. Six different players had at least one hit for the Blue and Gold, including Gailor and (senior first baseman) Strother, who each were 2-for-3. Christian, Lightbody, senior catcher Peyton Slater and sophomore designated player Mayumi Kinchen-Atkins all notched one hit.

"I think every single inning we had runners that were on base and over 50 percent of the time we had runners in scoring position," Jones said. "It's four games straight now where our girls have put a run up in the first inning. When you put people on base and score in the first inning you put another layer of pressure on the opposing team, and the girls are doing a great job of doing that consistently."

As impressive as the Eagles' offense was, Spicer was equally effective in the circle.

"Lennon did a great job working her corners and working her change-up to keep the batters off balance," said Jones. "She pitched a great game."

"I think today my insides and my screwball was working really well which helped a lot because they didn't really hit outside pitches very well. Well, okay, they didn't really hit outside pitches so they wouldn't swing at it. So, I anytime I threw it outside, it just felt like a waste of a pitch. So, like being able to get it at their hands and for them to like just watch it, it was really good, nice," Spicer said. "I think my change-up was doing pretty well. I had obviously some pitches that got away from me, but overall a majority of my pitches were working pretty well. I feel like I was more confident in myself that I have been in a while."

Spicer picked up her first win of the season to improve to 1-8. She went the distance and allowed one earned run on five hits with five walks. Her 10 strikeouts bettered her previous high of eight which she recorded on March 6 of last year against Eastern Illinois and then again in this year's opener against Louisiana Tech.

Defensively, the Eagles were flawless in the field for just the second time this season. In fact, MSU did not throw a wild pitch or have a passed ball in the victory.

The Colonels collective five hits with Bowers leading the way at 2-for-3. Narvaez, who had the team's lone RBI, started the game and went two and one-third innings before yielding to senior Samantha Reynoso, who suffered the loss and dropped to 2-8 on the season. Narvaez surrendered four hits, an earned run and one walk, while striking out one. Reynoso allowed two runs on four hits with five strikeouts and one walk.

Jones feels that finally getting in the win column will bolster the team as it prepares to open OVC play this weekend.

"I'm really excited how this great confidence will help them going into our first conference weekend as we head to Eastern Illinois," she said. "I want to take this momentum … and building on top of that having lights-out defense, more timely hits, more base runners and doing a great job with our pitching staff keeping batters off balance."

MSU will face EIU on Saturday for a single game at 5 p.m. ET, and then return the next day for a doubleheader starting at 2 p.m. ET.

By Brad Laux, MSU Athletic Media Relations