Hanover 7, Bluffton 6 (9)
May 2, 2015
By: Colton Steiner, sports information assistant
ANDERSON, Ind. - After forfeiting a 6-5 win over top seed Anderson due to a rule violation on Friday, the Beavers were forced into the loser's bracket with the Hanover College Panthers in a must-win game. Hanover needed nine innings, but the Panthers pulled off the upset with a 7-6 victory to move on to the HCAC Championship game against Anderson where the Ravens waltzed into their fifth straight NCAA tournament berth with a lopsided 9-2 win. The loss capped Bluffton’s record-setting season with a final mark of 26-16.
The Beavers were the first team on the board after freshman JOSIE McELROY (Mt. Orab/Western Brown) notched an RBI single to score ASHLEY KNIPPEN (Wapakoneta) in the top of the first. After the Panthers answered with a run in the bottom of the frame and another in the second, Hanover would take a 2-1 lead.
A three-run fourth inning put the Beavers back up 4-2. Bluffton’s fourth-inning rally started with an RBI double by ARIANA MUFFO (New Athens, Ill./New Athens). The Beavers scored two more runs in the inning off a couple of errors by the Hanover defense. Hanover would take a 5-4 lead after scoring a run in the fourth, and two more runs in the fifth. A sacrifice fly by Muffo picked up BRITTANY HUFF (Clayton/Northmont) to tie the game at 5-5 in the sixth.
The Beavers took a 6-5 lead in the ninth after McElroy hit a go-ahead RBI double to center, scoring JESSICA KUZARA (Flat Rock, Mich./Huron) who drew a one-out walk. The Panthers wouldn’t go down without a fight and after tying the game up, an RBI single to right field ended the contest, and with it Bluffton’s remarkable season.
Starting the day in the circle for the Beavers was JESSIE MADZIA (Massillon/Tuslaw) who went 1.1 innings, allowing two runs off three hits while striking out a batter. EMILY SCUPHOLM (Cuyahoga Falls/Our Lady of the Elms) came in and worked 3.0 innings, allowing three runs on six hits. CHLOE SHELL (Covington) took the loss, tossing the final 4.0 innings under extreme pressure with a total of 77 pitches. She wrapped up her outstanding career as a Beaver with a stellar 13-6 mark this season.
Bluffton finished with a total of 10 hits on the day. Ashley Knippen, BRITTANY BAKER (Springboro), and Brittany Huff each went 2-for-4. Ariana Muffo went 1-for-4 and Josie McElroy went 2-for-5, but each of them ripped extra base hits while tallying two RBI in the loss. A fantastic group of six seniors, including Shell, Baker, Kuzara, Muffo, Emily Kolezynski (Strongsville) and Jo Bondra (Highland Heights/Mayfield) will graduate on Sunday after four years of superb play on the softball field and more importantly, excellent work in the classroom!