There was an electric atmosphere at Smith Field as Marian University softball (23-11, 15-5 NACC) kept their NACC regular season championship hopes alive with a split against Aurora.
The opener of the day was a pitching duel that needed extra innings to determine a winner. The Sabres did a good job of producing a run in the first inning when sophomore Ally Fox opened the first frame with a single. Fox then stole second base before junior Lindsey Strainis moved her over to third. Sophomore Gianna Esposito was able to bring in Fox with a sacrifice fly to give Marian an early 1-0 lead.
The rest of the way, however, Marian would only manage to put a runner on second base four times and no one was able to reach third. Aurora looked poised for a big inning in the sixth when they loaded the bases but the Spartans were only able to manage to push across one run off of a fielder’s choice.
It wasn’t until extras that either side found a groove when the Spartans were able to plate three runs in the top half and seal the come-from-behind 4-1 victory.
Sophomore Paige Rauhut (13-4) took the tough-luck loss only allowing six hits over 8.0 innings with nine punch outs.
Fox had the big day at the plate and was one of only two hitters on either side with multiple hits going 3-for-4.
The Spartans looked ready for a sweep when they jumped out to a 4-0 lead heading into the bottom of the fourth but the Sabres would rally. A solo homer from freshman Katy Croeker sparked the rally in the fourth and seemed to wake up the Sabre bats. Freshman Kenzie Waechter came up with a clutch two-out double that plated junior Rachel Soch and sophomore Taylor Lauscher before a bunt single from Fox managed to bring in Waechter and tie the game at 4-4.
Each side would have chances with runners in scoring position in the late innings but it was the Sabres who were able to come up with the clutch hit to secure a split. Freshman Peyton Loesch opened the bottom of the seventh with a one-out single before Lauscher stepped in two batters later with two outs. Lauscher was able to come up clutch crushing a ball over the left field fence for her first career home run to give the Sabres a 6-4 win.
P. Rauhut (14-4) came out of the bullpen to earn the victory and was dominant once again tossing 2.2 innings of one-hit ball with four strikeouts.
Fox, Loesch, Croeker and Lauscher each had multi-hit games in the win with Lauscher closing out the game 2-4 with two runs scored and two driven in. Fox closed out her strong twin bill 2-3.
Marian closes out the regular season tomorrow, Sunday, April 29, at Concordia Chicago for a noon doubleheader. With a sweep, the Sabres would claim a share of the NACC regular season championship.