Sexton stars in circle, but Eagles fall twice to Panthers
Eagle freshman Bree Sexton pitched six strong innings in the first game of Sunday's Morehead State-Eastern Illinois softball twin bill at Williams Field in Charleston, Ill. She kept the Panther batters at bay for most of the afternoon before the hosts scored twice in the fifth, en route to claiming a 4-0 victory.
Eastern Illinois (16-12/3-0) came back to win the second and final game 11-1 in five innings to sweep the season-opening Ohio Valley Conference weekend series for the two foes.
Not only did Sexton have a successful outing in the circle, but she also tallied the team's lone hit.
"Bree did a great job coming in (and) getting outs for our team. She continually worked her drop curve, and her change-up was working well today," said MSU head coach Samantha Jones.
However, as has seemingly been the case much of the year, when the pitching and defense are on, the offense is not, and vice-versa.
Behind Sexton, Morehead State (1-18/0-3) also played error-free ball. But, at the plate, the squad collected only one hit.
In the second game, the Eagles continued to play well defensively, again going without committing an error. The offense also put the ball in play in 14 of its 18 plate appearances. However, the pitching struggled, surrendering 11 earned runs on 10 hits with six walks in just five innings, although there were some bright spots from freshman reliever Madi Ogden.
Sunday's action marked the second and third time in the last four outings the Eagles had a zero in the error column.
"The defense did a good job for the most part getting outs," Jones said.
In the opening contest, Jones shifted around her lineup and it seemed to work.
Sexton allowed just one base runner through the first two innings and gave up her first hit in the third.
The Eagles also collected their first base runner in the third when Sexton hit a two-out shot to right field. She then stole second base.
In the bottom of the stanza, the Panthers' lead-off batter singled and was sacrificed to second, and freshman center fielder Jaylen Prichard doubled to drive in the game's first run.
The Blue and Gold dodged a major bullet in the fourth. After a Sexton to Taylor Rhea to Peyton Slater double play, Sexton walked the next three batters sending reigning Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year Megan Burton to the plate. Five pitches later, Burton was looking for her glove and the Eagles were back in the dugout, with Sexton having notched her second strikeout of the afternoon.
In the top of the fifth, freshman catcher Ilencia Lightbody drew a leadoff walk, but it was the team's lone base runner.
The first four Panthers reached base in the bottom of the inning and the hosts scored twice to push their advantage to 3-0.
The Eagles did not get another base runner the rest of the way and EIU added an unearned run in the sixth to finalize the score.
Sexton (0-1) suffered the loss, but allowed only five hits on three earned runs with three strikeouts. However, she did walk eight.
Prichard was the top batter for Eastern Illinois. She ended 2-for-3 and scored a run. Cravens was 0-for-2, but walked twice and scored once. Freshman first baseman Briana Gonzalez was 1-for-2 with a walk and a run scored, and freshman right fielder Riley Dittmar went 1-for-2 with a walk and an RBI.
Freshman Alexa Rehmeier (6-2) pitched the one-hit shutout to earn the victory. She had 10 strikeouts to just one walk.
Little went right for the Blue and Gold in the second game. Senior second baseman Alexis Strother was hit by a pitch with two outs in the top of the first and freshman pitcher Maya Morris opened the bottom half of the frame by striking out Burton.
But from that point it went south quickly. The next seven Panthers reached base on four walks and three hits forcing coach Jones to turn to Ogden in the circle. The freshman hurler struck out two, but allowed two hits and three runs, before closing out the inning with EIU leading 8-0.
The Panthers added two more runs in the second, but the Eagles responded in the top of the third with a rally. Rhea, a junior designated player, notched an infield single, and sophomore center fielder followed by reaching on a fielder's choice and eventually advancing to third on a wild pitch. Junior shortstop Kirya Kingery drove Spear in with a double to left-center field, and then moved up a base on another wild pitch. But, that's where the run ended.
The hosts added another run on two hits and a walk in the bottom of the fourth to push the margin back to 10.
Kingery got the lone hit and finished the series 3-for-6 with a pair of RBI and a run scored. Although the Eagles only mustered one hit, they put a bat on the ball and forced the Panthers to make 11 of their 15 outs in the field.
Ogden had some success in the circle, finishing the day with a career-best five strikeouts. She allowed four earned runs, seven hits and two walks in three and two-thirds innings of work.
Her efforts drew praise from Jones.
"Madi 'O' did a great job coming in the second game and competing with the batters, keeping them off balance with her change-up, as well as her screw and rise (balls)," she said.
Morris (0-2) got the loss after giving up seven earned runs on three hits with four walks in one-third of an inning. She had one strikeout.
EIU spread its offense throughout its lineup, with only sophomore left fielder Marama Makea getting two hits. Five Panthers also had two RBI.
Junior Tieghan Morio (4-3) picked up the win after pitching the first four innings. She allowed two hits and an earned run. She also struck out four and did not walk a batter. Kaufman spent the final inning in the circle and retired the side.
Morehead State fell to EIU for the 14th straight outing and the 24th time in the last 25 meetings. The Panthers also captured the last 10 games in Charleston, while the Eagles remain winless in their last 23 contests away from home. EIU finished the weekend on a nine-game victory streak.
MSU returns home for seven straight games at University Field hoping to right the ship. The Eagles have had success playing on its own ballpark with a 2-3 record in its last five outings.
The Blue and Gold hosts Dayton for a doubleheader on Wednesday with first pitch slated for 1 p.m. The club returns to action on the weekend for a three-game series with Austin Peay. The Eagles and Govs will first meet in a Saturday doubleheader starting at 1 p.m. and then play a single game on Sunday.
3/23/2022 | 1:00 PM
By Brad Laux, MSU Athletic Media Relations