Rio softball takes two from Lions

By Randy Payton - For Ohio Valley Publishing

DAYTON, Tenn. — The University of Rio Grande used a pair of big innings to erase an early game one deficit before parlaying a four-run game two first inning into a doubleheader sweep of Bryan College, Tuesday afternoon, in non-conference softball action at Lions Field.

The RedStorm posted a mercy rule-shortened 11-1 win in the opener and a 7-4 triumph over the Lions in the nightcap.

Rio Grande, ranked No. 23 nationally in the NAIA preseason coaches’ poll, extended its win streak to three straight with the sweep and improved to 10-6 on the season.

Bryan slipped to 5-13 with the two losses.

The host Lions grabbed a 1-0 first inning lead in the opening game before Rio stormed back with four runs in the third inning and six markers in the fifth.

Senior Mallory Powell (Flatwoods, KY) led the RedStorm’s offensive onslaught with a career-high four hits – including a triple and a double – and three runs batted in.

Freshman Kayla Slutz (Navarre, OH) went 3-for-3 and drove in a run, while junior Carly Skeese (Newark, OH) hit a three-run home run and sophomore Michaela Criner (Bremen, OH) finished with two hits.

The home run by Skeese highlighted the four-run third inning, while Powell had two hits – including a two-run single – to help fuel the six-run fifth inning.

Freshman Aubrey Azbill (Miamisburg, OH) scattered three singles, walked three and surrendered the one run in a complete game effort to earn the win in the pitcher’s circle.

Olivia Johnson started and took the loss for the Lions.

Game two saw Rio Grande jump to a 4-0 lead in the first inning and the RedStorm were never headed.

Azbill had a two-run single and fellow freshman Mary Pica (Minford, OH) added a run-scoring double in the first inning uprising.

Bryan cut the deficit in half with a pair of third inning runs and both teams added a fifth inning marker before the RedStorm extended the lead to 7-3 in the sixth inning thanks to a two-out throwing error.

The Lions got one run back in the home half of the frame, but got no closer.

Azbill finished 3-for-4 with the two RBI, while Criner and sophomore Lexi Philen (Tallmadge, OH) both had two hits of their own and Pica had two RBI in the winning effort.

Powell earned the win in the circle, allowing six hits and a pair of earned runs over six innings. Junior Kelsey Conkey (Minford, OH) worked a scoreless seventh inning to earn a save.

Lindsey Dunn started and lost for Bryan, while Heidi Smith had the Lions’ lone extra-base hit with a triple.

Shortly after Tuesday’s sweep, Rio Grande learned that its scheduled twin bill at Hiwassee College on Wednesday had been cancelled due to poor field conditions.

The RedStorm will now return to action on Friday in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Classic in Columbus, Ga.

Rio will face Calumet College of St. Joseph at 3:30 p.m. and fifth-ranked Brenau University at 6 p.m.

By Randy Payton

For Ohio Valley Publishing

Randy Payton can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.

Randy Payton can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.