COLUMBUS, Ga. — The University of Rio Grande softball team snapped a four-game losing streak with a pair of wins in Friday’s opening round of the NFCA NAIA Leadoff Classic at the South Commons Complex.
The RedStorm rolled to a 9-1 mercy rule-shortened win over Bryan (Tenn.) College in their first contest of the day, before posting a 5-4 walk-off triumph over 18th-ranked William Carey (Miss.) University in game two.
Rio Grande, which was among the teams receiving votes in the NAIA preseason Top 25, improved to 4-8 with the wins.
Bryan slipped to 4-6 with its loss to the RedStorm, while William Carey fell to 3-2.
In Friday’s opener, Rio Grande spotted the Lions a 1-0 first inning lead before exploding for eight runs in the fourth inning.
Seniors Brooke Hoffman (Columbus Grove, OH) and Lexi Philen (Tallmadge, OH) both had two-run doubles in the uprising, while sophomore Taylor Webb (Willow Wood, OH) had a two-run single of her own.
Webb also added an RBI single in the bottom of the sixth to score sophomore Shelby Schmitt (Fairfield, OH), who opened the inning with a double.
Webb finished 3-for-3 with three RBI in the win, while Schmitt and junior Kayla Slutz (Navarre, OH) added two hits each.
Junior Raelynn Hastings (Commercial Point, OH) allowed four hits and a walk, while striking out eight in a complete game effort for Rio.
Addy Keylon had two hits, including a double, and Brianna Nagelhout drove in a run for Bryan.
Lindsey Dunn started and took the loss for the Lions, allowing six hits, a pair of walks and eight runs — all earned — over 3-1/3 innings.
Game two saw the RedStorm rally from a 4-0 third inning deficit to post a dramatic win.
The Crusaders got all of their runs in the third inning, sending eight batters to the plate against Rio sophomore starter Viv Capozella (Dover, OH).
Dee Dee West had a run-scoring double, Mary Grace Turner had an RBI single and Maranda Busby had a two-run double for WCU in the inning.
Rio Grande started the road back in the home fourth, scoring three times to slice the deficit to one. Sophomore Kenzie Cremeens (Ironton, OH) had an RBI double and Hoffman had a run-scoring single in the comeback.
Freshman Chase Arndt (Clyde, OH) had a two-out double in the fifth and junior Morgan Santos (Dayton, OH) followed with a run-scoring single to tie the game and set the stage for the walk-off victory.
Webb, Arndt and Santos reached on consecutive one-out singles in the seventh and Cremeens plated Webb with a sacrifice fly to cap the win.
Arndt, Santos and Hoffman all had two hits in the winning effort.
Hastings pitched a scoreless seventh inning in relief to get the win, allowing a hit and striking out two.
West, Turner, Anna Grace Cooley and Mary Blair Odom had two hits each in the loss for William Carey.
Megan Dudenhefer started and took the loss for the Crusaders. She allowed 10 hits and a walk while striking out eight in a complete game effort.
Rio Grande returns to action with two more games in the Classic on Saturday.
The RedStorm will face Brenau (Ga.) University, which was also among the teams receiving votes in the preseason poll, in its 10 a.m. opener before tangling with 13th-ranked Campbellsville (Ky.) University in its final game of the day at noon.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.