Chris Kendrick (@CKendrick86)
FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Elms College softball kicked off the 2016 season by splitting a doubleheader at the 2016 Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic at North Collier Park Saturday afternoon. The Blazers fell to Eastern Nazarene, 7-4 in game one, and then collected a 1-0 victory, in eight innings, over Clark. The Blazers moved to 1-1 on the season.
Game 1: Eastern Nazarene 7, Elms 4
Eastern Nazarene cracked the scoreboard in the first inning as they put their first two batter on base, and junior Kaitlyn Jimenez (Meriden, Conn.) came around to score on a sacrifice fly from freshman Lauren Clements (Garrison, Texas).
The Lions padded their lead in the top of the third as freshman Viviana Coix (Warrenville, Ill.) led off the inning with a single and then scored on a Blazers fielding error. Clements delivered another RBI sacrifice fly, followed by an RBI double from freshman Lauren Weidler (Lansdale, Pa.) to push the ENC advantage to 3-0.
The Blazers broke through in the bottom of the fourth with six hits as singles from sophomore Elizabeth Olszewski (Canterbury, Conn.) and junior Kacey Gifford (Suffield, Conn.) opened the frame. With the bases loaded, senior Kierstan Skinner (South Windsor, Conn.) ripped an RBI single through the left side of the infield, scoring Olszewski to plate Elms first run. Freshman Madison Messier (Warren, Mass.) registered her first career hit with an RBI single to right field, followed by an RBI single from junior Tessa Cote (Granby, Mass.) to trim the deficit to 6-3. Freshman Keyla Oliveras (Springfield, Mass.) knocked her first career hit with RBI single through the left side to make it 6-4.
Eastern Nazarene responded in the top of the fifth as Jimenez came around to score on Blazers throwing error, and then freshman Payton Fry (Chandler, Ariz.) knocked an RBI single up the middle to give the Lions a 6-4 lead. Fry advanced to third on fly out and scored on an RBI single by sophomore Heidi Gomez (Floral Park, N.Y.) to increase the Eastern Nazarene advantage to 7-4. The Blazers had runners in scoring position in the bottom of the fifth and sixth inning but couldn't bring them home, and then Gomez struck out the side in the seventh to lock up the 7-4 victory for Eastern Nazarene.
Each side recorded 10 hits during the contest. Gomez (1-0) earned the win, surrendering four runs on 10 hits with 15 strikeouts. Cote (0-1) went the distance for Elms, allowing seven runs, five earned, on 10 hits with five strikeouts.
Oliveras led the Blazers with three hits and an RBI out of the leadoff spot, while Skinner, Messier and Cote added RBIs. Jimenez paced the Lions with three hits and three runs scored. Clements tallied two hits and drove in a pair of runs, while Fry logged two hits.
Game 2: Elms 1, Clark 0 (Eight Innings)
The Blazers and the Cougars game turned into a pitcher's duel between Elms freshman Raeanna Tumel (Stafford, Conn.) and Clark sophomore Sami West (Gonic, N.H.), who combined to allow five hits with 14 strikeouts.
After Tumel retired the side 1-2-3 for the third straight inning, the Blazer had their first baserunner in the bottom of the frame as freshman Catharine Wrang (Middletown, Conn.) reached on an error, but Wrang would be stranded at second. Each team put runners on base in the sixth that failed to score.
The Blazers put together their best offensive inning in the seventh as freshmen Madison Messier (Warren, Mass.) and Téa Sullivan (Dracut, Mass.) opened the frame with back-to-back singles. After freshman Erin O'Donnell (Glenmont, N.Y.) was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Messier was thrown out at home on a fielder's choice to force extra innings
With runners placed on second to open the extra frame, Clark advanced sophomore Anjelica Gonzalez (Merrimack, N.H.) to third on a single from West. Tumel forced a pop up, then West was picked off at first base, followed by a fly out to left field to kill the Cougars threat.
In the bottom of the inning, senior Taylor Skinner (South Windsor, Conn.) was placed on second and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt from twin sister Kierstan Skinner. Skinner scored the game-winning run as Oliveras put a ball in play that was misplayed by West to send the Blazers to the 1-0 win.
Tumel (1-0) earned her first collegiate win in her first collegiate start, registering an eight-inning complete game shutout, allowing just two hits with seven strikeouts. West (0-1) loss the tough-luck loss, giving up one run on three hits with seven strikeouts.
The Blazers will be back in action with a doubleheader, facing Rockford at 11:00 a.m. and Swarthmore at 1:00 p.m. The Cougars will take on Dominican University at 1:00 p.m., followed by Wisconsin Lutheran at 3:00 p.m.