KEARNEY — University of Nebraska at Kearney softball’s four-game winning streak came to an end Sunday afternoon.
Strong pitching and timely hitting summarized the Lopers’ recent stretch. Those two areas didn’t consistently carry over into their doubleheader against Missouri Western as they dropped both games, 6-2 and 6-4, at Patriot Park.
“We just have to make sure we are consistent throughout the whole game,” coach Holly Carnes said. “At times there, we had a lull where maybe we weren’t as into it or engaged as we should be. Sometimes we’d make an error here or there and that will creep in on us a bit.”
After scoring two runs in the third inning, the Lopers’ offense was nonexistent the rest of the game, tallying four hits in the final four innings of Game 1.
The Lopers (12-18, 8-8 MIAA) held a one-run lead after the third inning before the Griffons scored five runs between the fourth and fifth innings.
Starting right-hander Sarah Handrahan allowed two runs in the fourth, and lefty reliever Mo Vornhagen surrendered three runs in the fifth.
The Lopers tried to rally in the seventh inning. The first two batters reached base on back-to-back singles. It brought the middle of their lineup to the plate with no outs. But two groundouts and a strikeout ended the Lopers’ hopes.
Vornhagen started the second game in place of Erin Hallman, who didn’t play due to an injury.
Vornhagen struggled with her command in the first inning, allowing the Griffons (22-14, 9-5) to grab an early lead.
After hitting two of the first three batters, Vornhagen made a mistake to Emma Hoffart. The Griffons’ cleanup hitter smashed an opposite field three-run home run over the right field fence.
The Lopers nearly overcame the deficit. After the Griffons added two runs in the top of the third inning to take a 5-1 lead, UNK responded with a run in the bottom half of the frame.
In the fifth, Kaitlyn Johnson doubled to centerfield and Carlee Liesch walked to start the inning. A sacrifice bunt moved the two runners to second and third with one out. Alexis Howe drove in a run on a fielder’s choice.
The Lopers attempted a double steal on the next pitch. Liesch scored from third but Howe was thrown out trying to steal second. Cheyenne Hamilton struck out to end the inning.
The Lopers’ bright start to the fifth inning netted just two runs and brought them within 5-4 of the Griffons.
Even though they lost, Carnes appreciated the way her team overcame the first-inning deficit.
“All we had to do was keep chipping away,” Carnes said. “There was a lot of game left at that point. With the hitters we have, we can keep chipping away, and we will be OK.”
The Lopers return to the diamond Tuesday with a road doubleheader against Hastings College.
Sweep of NW Missouri gave Lopers four-game win streak
UNK racked up 20 hits and got strong relief outings from Handrahan and Vornhagen to sweep a doubleheader from Northwest Missouri State, 7-6 and 4-3, Saturday afternoon at Patriot Park.
Handrahan earned a rare save by throwing 1 1/3 scoreless innings in the first game. Handrahan got a strikeout on a full count to end the sixth and worked around a two-out single in the seventh.
UNK’s first five hitters were a combined 11 for 20 with three RBIs and scored six runs. Sara Sempek went 3 for 4 and Cheyenne Hamilton was 2 for 4. Seven-hole hitter Karlee Arnold had a key two out, two-run single in the third.
Moving to catcher in the nightcap, Arnold belted a leadoff homer in the bottom of the fourth to cut into a 2-0 deficit. UNK tacked on two more runs in the inning, the last coming on an RBI single by Sempek.
Freshman second baseman Abbie Vodicka tallied the winning run on a single by Liesch.
Vornhagen (1-1) earned her first collegiate win by allowing no hits over the final 2 1/3 innings. She issued one walk and fanned one. Handrahan got the start and blanked Northwest for the first three innings.