Beavers fall to AU in HCAC Championship game
May 3, 2014
ANDERSON, Ind. - Although the day did not end the way the Beaver faithful had envisioned, the Bluffton University softball team capped off its 2014 season with the best Heartland Conference tournament finish in school history. A 10-2 six-inning victory over Rose-Hulman propelled Bluffton to its first-ever HCAC title game. Anderson continued its run of success, dominating Bluffton 13-4 in five innings for the Ravens fourth straight conference tournament championship on Saturday, May 3, 2014.
A Jessica Ahlborn homer to open game one was not the desired start for Bluffton and three straight perfect innings by Rose-Hulman ace Carly Heibel had Blufftpn wondering if its tournament run would end following the 11 a.m. Saturday opener. The second time through the potent Bluffton lineup was a different story as the Beavers went up 5-1 after five innings.
Back-to-back singles up the middle by Ariana Muffo (New Athens, Ill.) and Jess Kuzara (Flat Rock, Mich./Huron) helped Bluffton start to change the momentum in the bottom of the fourth. Emily Kolezynski's (Strongsville) ground ball to shortstop allowed both Muffo and Kuzara to sprint home and Jo Bondra (Highland Heights/Mayfield) followed with an RBI single for a 3-1 lead.
Kuzara and Kolezynski were back in the action an inning later when they drove in two more runs for a 5-1 lead. The biggest play of the game came in the top of the sixth when Rose put together three straight singles to load the bases with no outs. Coach Bruder went to the circle and ordered up a double play ball to keep the damage to the minimum. Freshman Emily Scupholm (Cuyahoga Falls/Our Lady of the Elms) obliged, inducing a sharp grounder to Shelby Erford (Paulding). Brittany Baker (Springboro) made the slick turn to Jo Bondra at first and when the Engineers went down swinging a batter later, the score was still 5-2 in favor of the Beavers.
With the momentum clearly on the side of Bluffton, the Beavers had an inning to remember in the home half of the sixth. Seven straight hits and five runs later, and Bluffton wrapped up its first HCAC semi-final victory ever before RHIT could record one out in the inning. Katie Musgrave (Doylestown/Chippewa) and Ariana Muffo did the damage with a pair of two-RBI hits before Baker's bunt to shortstop ended the game as Muffo raced home for the 10-2 victory.
Kuzara went 3-of-4 with two runs scored and one RBI. Muffo, Baker and Musgrave all chipped in with two hits apiece for the victors. Musgrave scored twice and drove in two while Muffo did the same.
Scupholm moved to 10-3 after limiting RHIT to one run on five hits in four innings of standout relief. She struck out two and did not walk a batter.
A four-run Anderson first set the tone in the HCAC championship game. The Ravens followed that with three in the second and six in the third en route to their second straight mercy-rule victory in the tournament.
Ashley Knippen (Wapakoneta) parked a Sami Frazier offering over the fence in the second and Jo Bondra's RBI groundout in the third made the score 7-2 before Anderson slapped a six-spot on the board in the bottom of the frame. A Raven error led to a pair of unearned runs in the fourth, but it was not enough to keep the mercy-rule off the table as Anderson capped the tourney with a 13-4 victory in five innings.
Kolezynski, Kuzara and Knippen all poked two hits in the championship game. Kuzara finished the day 5-of-7 with three runs scored. For their efforts over the weekend, Shelby Erford, Ariana Muffo and Ashley Knippen were named to HCAC All-Tournament Team.
Scupholm slipped to 10-4 after surrendering seven runs on eight hits in 1.2 innings of work.
Despite a sad ending to the day, the Bluffton University softball team capped off one of the best seasons in school history with its trip the tournament finals. The Beavers bid adieu to seniors Shelby Erford, Kayla Owens (Cincinnati/McAuley) and Chelsea Weitz (Dayton/Carroll) who will accept their diplomas in the Sommer Center on Sunday afternoon after four outstanding seasons on the diamond!