Softball outlasts Akron in extra innings


Senior infielder Taylor LeWallen , left, senior pitcher Rachael Knapp, middle, and sophomore first baseman Erika Underwood, right, run to the dugout on Mar. 22 at Jonker Stadium.

Neither team could catch a break on offense for most of Saturday’s battle between the Central Michigan softball team and Akron.

It took 12 innings, but it was sophomore catcher Kayla Noch who sealed the deal for the Chippewas.

Runners were on second and third with one out, when sophomore utility player Andrea Perlberg hit a ground ball that got thrown home, but Noch was able to beat the throw and scored what ended up being the game-winning run. 

CMU added three more runs in the frame to defeated the Zips 4-0. 

Head coach Margo Jonker said that it wasn't her call to send Noch home on the play.

“It was all her reaction,” Jonker said. “We talk about being aggressive on the base pads a lot, and I told her to be ready if (Noch) thought she had a chance. She made a play and it was big for us to get that run across.” 

While both pitchers did well enough to earn the win, Knapp earned her 13th win pitching the complete game and shutting out Akron. The St. Joseph native only allowed seven hits while striking out 15 batters. Freshman pitcher Lexie Handley took the loss for Akron, dropping her to 12-12 on the season. 

“Knapp was huge for us today," Jonker said. "Her and Noch did a great job as a better to keep us charged throughout the game. Sometimes you have to lean on players, and we did for about as long as we possibly could today.”

The win kept CMU (22-10 overall, 7-2 Mid-American Conference) in second place in the MAC West, trailing Ball State who also won its games today. 

The game started rather slow, with only one hit (for CMU) between the two teams in the first three innings of the contest. Knapp and Handley were both cruising through their opponents with ease.

It wasn't until the fifth inning when a team finally got a runner in scoring position. CMU was threatening with a pair of singles putting runners on first and second base with one out.

Akron’s freshman first baseman Laura Lakins snagged a line drive going towards the first baseline, then dived at first base to get a unassisted double-play, ending the fifth inning and kept the game scoreless. 

In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Zips brought on their first real threat of the game.

Lakins worked a walk, followed by a single from junior outfielder Ashley Sims, putting runners on first and second with nobody out.

The Chippewas didn't waste any time erasing the scoring chance.

CMU doubled up Akron on a bunt attempt, throwing down to third base and then back over to first to complete the play. Then Knapp finished the inning with a called-third strike, keeping the game tied heading to the seventh inning. 

Following a scoreless seventh inning, CMU got the first runner of the game on third base to start the top of the eighth inning after a couple of passed balls, allowing Perlberg to advance.

Once again, the Chippewas couldn't capitalize on the opportunity, as junior left fielder Lacy Tolfree took a called-third strike to end CMU’s half of the inning.

The Zips came back with a counter attack of their own. A pair of singles put runners on first and second with one out, but Knapp got another strikeout and Tolfree caught a line drive that could of potentially ended the game, and instead sent the game into the ninth inning.

Senior third baseman Taylor Lewallen led off the tenth inning with a double, but once against the Chippewas failed to get the runner across home plate, keeping the game going into the bottom of the tenth. 

Akron was retired in order in the bottom of the tenth, and the CMU once again squandered a great scoring chance.

After Tolfree and sophomore center fielder Allison Curtis hit a double to put runners on second and third with nobody out, CMU was put away in order for the next three outs to end the scoring attempt once again.

Immediately after, Akron had another threat, putting runners on the corners with just one out, but Knapp got her 14th strikeout of the game and fly out to end the frame. 

It was then the 12th inning when the flood gates finally opened and CMU scored the four runs to win the game. 

It was Tolfree who had the biggest day for the Chippewas’ bats, going 4-for-6 at the plate, recording three singles, a double, and two runs batted in. Noch also had a solid game, getting two hits in four tries and scored a run.

Jonker said tomorrow the team should have a different angle on what to do offensively.

“I think that last inning will play a big role into tomorrow's games,” Jonker said. “We finally got to their pitcher a little bit, and now if we face her again, we know what we need to do and get the ball in play more.”

The Chippewas and Zips will return to the diamond Sunday for a doubleheader. Game 1 is scheduled for noon in Ohio.