Beavers throttle Manchester in mercy-rule sweep
April 22, 2015
By: Ryan Ebbeskotte, sports information assistant
BLUFFTON, Ohio - On Senior Night at the Bluffton University softball field, the Bluffton softball team hosted the Manchester University Spartans on Wednesday, April 22 for a doubleheader that pitted two teams knotted at second place in the Heartland Conference. The Bluffton seniors went out with a bang and swept the Spartans, improving to 23-14 on the season and 10-4 in the HCAC, while Manchester stands at 13-12 and 8-6 in the HCAC. The sweep of Manchester assured the Beavers of a spot in the upcoming Heartland Conference tournament that will take place at Anderson University on Friday, May 1.
Both teams came out swinging, with Manchester getting three runs off four hits in the top of the first inning. Bluffton responded with three runs of their own in the bottom in the inning.
ARIANA MUFFO (New Athens, Ill.) led off the bottom of the first with a double to centerfield and ASHLEY KNIPPEN (Wapakoneta) reached thanks to a fielding miscue by the visitors. A groundout and another error would score two runs before JOSIE MCELROY (Mt. Orab/Western Brown) connected on a solo shot to right field to tie the game 3-3 heading into the second.
The Beaver defense held in the second inning and the bats stayed hot as Bluffton gathered three more runs in the bottom of the second. BRITTANY BAKER (Springboro) and BRITTANY HUFF (Clayton/Northmont) started the inning with singles. After a flyout, Muffo wiped the bases clean with a three-run shot to deep centerfield. Bluffton would head into the third inning leading 6-3.
Manchester knotted the game at 6-6 after collecting three runs of their own, but the game was not tied for long as Bluffton exploded for eight runs in the bottom of the third inning.
McElroy led off with a solo home run, her second in the first three innings. Fellow freshman MAKENZIE SCHMIDT (Caledonia/River Valley) slapped a single to left, CARLY LEVINDOFSKE (Rocky River/Magnificant) drew a walk and Baker also singled to load the bases. A force out at the plate and an RBI groundout made the score 8-6. After a walk to Muffo which loaded the bases, Knippen blasted a grand slam which cleared the bases. JESS KUZARA (Flat Rock, Mich./Huron) followed up with a triple and McElroy would garner another RBI with a single. Schmidt connected for her second hit of the inning, scoring McElroy and putting the Beavers ahead, 14-6.
In the top of the fourth, the Spartans would again score three runs to cut the lead to 14-9. Bluffton wasn't going to be outdone and the home team scored five more runs.
Baker opened with a home run and Huff followed with a double. An out and two walks would load the bases. Two runs crossed the dish after a dropped fly ball by the Spartans. Another throwing error would score two more runs for the Beavers to end the inning with a 19-9 advantage.
Manchester would add a run in the top of the fifth, but it was not enough to force the Beavers to swing their sticks again as the home team took game one by a convincing 19-10 final in four and a half innings.
CHLOE SHELL (Covington) got the start in the first game for Bluffton, allowing nine runs on nine hits with five walks and two strikeouts. EMILY KOLEZYNSKI (Strongsville) came on in the fourth and picked up her third win of the season, improving to 3-0.
McElroy paced the Bluffton offense with a 3-of-4 effort at the plate. She drove in three and scored three runs with two homers. Knippen drove in four runs and scored three times, while Muffo, Baker and Huff all crossed the dish three times.
Bluffton would continue to keep the bats rolling in the second game, but it would take until the third inning to score any runs. Heading into the bottom of the third, the Beavers trailed 1-0.
With one out, Huff sent one out of the park to give Bluffton its first run of the game. A single and groundout brought Knippen to the plate. She went yard to center for a two-run dinger, followed by doubles from Kuzara and McElroy. Schmidt added to the cause with an RBI single, making the score 5-1
Manchester went scoreless in the fourth, but Bluffton would continue to add more runs. Baker and Huff opened the inning with consecutive singles. With one out, Knippen continued her career day with a three-run bomb to right field. Kuzara walked and not to be outdone, McElroy hit a two-run bomb for her third of the day as well. The inning would end with the Beavers leading 10-1 which became the final three outs later.
JESSIE MADZIA (Massillon/Tuslaw) started on the mound for the Beavers in the second game and went all five innings, giving up only two hits and one run. Madzia raised her record to 8-6 on the season.
Bluffton hit nine home runs on the day. McElroy would finish the day hitting 6-for-7 with three home runs and six RBI. Knippen finished 4-for-6 with three homers and nine RBI.
Bluffton University visits Hanover College on Friday, April 24, for a doubleheader to finish off the regular season, with the first game scheduled for 3:30 PM. The game had been scheduled for Saturday but has been moved up due to the weather forecast.