Bluffton pitching highlights final day in Florida
March 5, 2015
By: Colton Steiner, sports information assistant
CAPE CORAL, Fla. - The Bluffton University softball team went to extra innings against the Olivet Comets and lost a heartbreaker. The Beavers slipped to 7-2 when Olivet scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth for a victory in the Comets season opener.
The Beaver offensive struggles early in game one were a sign of things to come as they went down in order in each of the first three innings. Bluffton finally cracked the hit column in the fourth when ARIANA MUFFO (New Athens, Ill./New Athens) belted a 1-0 offering over the wall for her first dinger of the season and a 1-0 lead.
A trio of singles by the Comets in the bottom of the fifth inning added up to a 1-1 tie when Maddy Siebenmark's infield single picked up Madison Spry from second. After base knocks by Muffo and JESSICA KUZARA (Flat Rock, Mich./Huron) in the top of the seventh, a pair of stolen bases put two runners in scoring position, but Olivet worked around the trouble as the game moved to extra innings.
In the eighth inning, ABIGAIL BLAKE (Lancaster/Fairfield Union) was placed on second base with the international tie-breaker in effect and she moved to third thanks to a sacrifice bunt by CARLY LEVINDOFSKE (Brunswick/Magnificat). A perfectly executed bunt by JOHANNA BONDRA (Highfield Heights/Mayfield) plated Blake. Olivet answered in the bottom of the inning to stay alive.
In the top of the ninth, Makenzie Schmidt (Caledonia/River Valley) took her place at second to start the inning. After a sacrifice bunt by Ashley Knippen (Wapakoneta) and a throwing error by the Comets put runners on the corners. A steal by Knippen put two Beavers in scoring position for Muffo. Her groundout to second picked up Schmidt for a 3-2 lead.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Comets were able to get a run to tie the up at three. The biggest hit of the game was a single through the right side by ASHLEY MILHEIM who took advantage of her speed in going 4-of-5 at the dish. Her RBI single ended the game with Olivet on top by a 4-3 count.
The Beavers were led by Muffo who collected two of Bluffton’s four hits and added two RBI, including her long ball. Also picking up hits for the Beavers were Jessica Kuzara and Jo Bondra.
Jessie Madzia (Massillon/Tuslaw) was sensational in her second start in as many days, allowing just one run in regulation. She gave up four runs, just two earned, on nine hits in a complete-game effort (8.2 innings). Madzia fanned seven Comet batters and walked just two as she fell to 2-1 with the hard-luck loss.
The second game of the day matched up Bluffton with St. John Fisher, a squad the Chloe Shell (Covington) no-hit a season ago in the 2014 Gene Cusic Classic. It was another pitching duel with Shell again in peak form., but the Cardinals took advantage of two errors in the fifth and were able pull out a 1-0 victory.
The Beavers were again hitless until the fourth inning when Jess Kuzara's bloop single to left moved BRITTANY BAKER (Springsboro) to second following her two-out walk. Fisher was able to get out of trouble when Josie McElroy's (Mt. Orab/Western Brown) rocket shot to first ended the inning. St. John Fisher final broke the scoreless tie when they took advantage of a Bluffton error to go up 1-0.
That turned out to be the only one of the game as the Cardinals stayed perfect at 6-0 with the 1-0 win. Carly Levindofske stroked a double to right center with two down in the seventh for Bluffton's only other hit against SJF.
Shell was the starting pitcher and went the distance, going all 6.0 innings for the Beavers, while only allowing a paltry three hits and one unearned run, Shell fanned four batters while walking two. It was Shell’s first loss of the season (3-1) as the senior standout has fashioned a sparkling 0.55 ERA while limiting opponents to a miniscule .148 batting average in 25.1 innings of work!
Bluffton wrapped up its Florida trip with a solid 7-3 start to the season. The Beavers will head back home and face Otterbein in their home opener on Thursday, March 12 at 3:30 p.m. weather permitting. Come out and support your Beavers!