The Denison softball team kicked off the 2014 season with a thrilling 5-4 victory over Augsburg at the Tucson Invitational Games in Tucson, Ariz. In the second game on Sunday, the Big Red suffered a 12-0 setback to fourth-ranked Central.
In the opener against Augsburg, Denison freshman pitcher Erin Laswell made her collegiate debut. Laswell retired the side in order in the top of the first and threw up another zero in the second. The Auggies generated two unearned runs in the top of the third inning behind two hits and two Big Red miscues.
After clinging to a two-run advantage for two innings, the Big Red offense hung its first runs of the season on the board in the bottom of the fifth. Laswell got things going with a one-out base hit up the middle. Junior Julie Rooney kept the inning alive when she roped a single through the right side. With runners at first and second, freshman Kerry Hager belted a double to left field that easily scored Laswell and Rooney, tying the game at 2-2. In their next at-bat, DU took its first lead of the game behind another two-out hit. Seniors Heather Larsen and Gretchen Staubach reached via two-out single and walk, respectively. Looking to help her own cause, Laswell blasted a double to the gap in left center that plated both seniors.
Now heading into the seventh with a two-run lead, the Big Red needed just three outs to cap off their season-opening win. After giving up a single down the right line, Laswell got Sarah Buckner to ground into a force out and struck out Olivia Boerschinger. Things got interesting when a misplayed ball put the game-tying run at second base with two outs. Pinch hitter Amanda Niznik made the Denison defense pay with a two-out, two-run double to center that tied the game. After giving up the two-run single, the freshman hurler induced a ground out to second that minimized the damage.
Entering the bottom of the seventh, the Big Red was looking for just one run to avoid extra innings. After the first two batters of the inning popped out to the shortstop, extra frames looked inevitable when a ground ball was hit to the Auggies' shortstop. However, an errant throw allowed freshman Anna Balch to reach safely. After a base-on-balls to Meghan Edwards moved the game-winning run into scoring position, DU head coach Tiffany Ozbun brought in another rookie, Lindsey Kenyon, in to pinch run. After a wild pitch moved both runners 60 feet, Boerschinger loaded the bases after issuing Rachel Laughlin a free pass. With the bases full, Augsburg brought in reliever Amanda Eaton to record the final out. However, Eaton gave up the game-winning run after striking Larsen with a pitch.
Larsen finished the game with two hits, an RBI and a run scored, while Hager both drove in a pair. Laswell also went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored. In addition to her outstanding day at the plate, Laswell also picked up her first-career win inside the circle. Over the course of seven innings, she scattered seven hits, allowed four unearned runs and struck out six batters.
In the nightcap against Central, the fourth-ranked Dutch scored 12 runs, highlighted by a seven-run fourth inning. Central All-American pitcher Mallory Schulenberg tossed a complete-game one-hitter en route to her second win of the year. In five innings, she struck out six and walked three. Jordan Overland and Whitney Sowers each recorded three hits and two runs, while Karlee Rock went 2-for-2 with a game-high three RBIs.
Rooney broke up the no hit bid in the third inning with a bunt down the left line. Senior Rebecca Dyer suffered the loss after surrendering five runs on eight hits in three innings of work. Classmate Kelsey Hager pitched the final two frames, allowing five earned runs on five hits with two strikeouts.
Denison (1-1) continues play in Tucson on Monday when they take on Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Marian (Wis.) at 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. EDT, respectively.