The Loras Softball team got their 2017 schedule underway with a weekend of games in the Twin Cities. The Duhawks were able to flex their offensive muscles in the opening series against Crown College, their first winning game 6-0 and their second game 12-4.
In the first game, first-year Emily Reilly took the mound for her collegiate debut and dominated. The Oak Lawn, IL, native threw six shutout innings, striking out 10 and only allowing two hits. She was supported by timely hitting, as Loras scored four runs in the fourth inning and two more in the fifth. Senior Cate Paulsen led the attack, finishing 2-for-3 with an RBI double to her credit.
Game two saw Loras continue their offensive showcase, starting the game with a three-run top of the first. Sophomore Megan Larson ripped a double to center, her first of four doubles in the game. That ties the program record for most doubles by a single player in a game, previously set in 2000. Crown would end up tying the game at three apiece, but that did not last long. Loras added three more runs in the third, then busted the game wide open with a five run fourth inning. Sophomore Ashley Lentine launched her first home run as a Duhawk to balloon the lead to eight. The Duhawks finished the game with 15 hits as a team, 25 in total for the doubleheader.
The next day, Loras was back at it for another doubleheader, this time against the University of Minnesota-Morris Cougars. The Duhawks continued to score in bunches, as they jumped out to a 5-0 advantage in game one. Lentine hit her second home run in as many days, then was followed up by Larson blasting a home run of her own to pad the lead. Loras led by as much as 8-2 when the Cougars started on the comeback trail. In the fifth and sixth innings, the Cougars scored a combined seven runs to tie the game at 9-9. The Duhawks would re-take the lead in the bottom of the sixth, thanks to a sacrifice fly by senior Dani Stromert that scored Larson, putting Loras ahead for good, 10-9. In game two, it was the Cougars who held an early lead, but Loras answered with a four run fourth inning highlighted by Lentine’s RBI triple. The Cougars retook the lead once again with a rally in the fifth, only to be met by another Duhawk onslaught. Loras scored three runs in the sixth and three more in the seventh, with the exclamation point coming off the bat of Lentine. Her three-run bomb in the seventh sealed the 10-5 win for the Duhawks.
Overall, it was an impressive showing for the Duhawks all weekend. Over their first four games, Loras has scored a total of 38 runs and compiled 51 hits. Head coach Ashley Winter was happy with how her team started out of the gate, especially with such a young roster.
“I was very pleased with the effort and production from our underclassmen,” Winter said. “First-year pitcher Emily Reilly had a great opening weekend. We are excited about what she brings to our team and pitching staff. She showed great control and poise on the mound.”
“Sophomore Ashley Lentine also had a big weekend for our team offensively and did a great job of scoring her teammates,” Winter added.
Lentine led the way for the Duhawks all weekend, hitting .625 with 10 RBIs and three home runs. Reilly started her Duhawk career on the right foot, going 2-0 and striking out 14 batters over 11 innings.
With only three seniors on the roster, Winter will have to rely heavily on underclassmen to produce. Based off the first two series of the season, it seems she is in good hands. On top of the Duhawks we’ve already mentioned, juniors Savannah Fowler, Regan Wolverton and Bria Lenten are important cogs to the success of the Duhawks this year. If they can set the table ahead of Larson, Stromert and Lentine, Loras will be in business.
Before the season, Loras was predicted to finish eighth in the Iowa Conference, only ahead of the University of Dubuque. Coach Winter relishes the opportunity to compete in such a tough conference.
“The Iowa Conference is an extremely strong softball conference, one of the best in the nation,” said Winter. “We are looking to be competitive within the conference and give ourselves the opportunity to win every ballgame.”
After a long break due to winter weather across the Midwest, the Duhawks will be heading south to Clermont, FL. They will be taking on eight different opponents over four days as part of the Rebel Spring Games Tournament. The Duhawks will have their home opener on March 25 against Cornell College at Faber-Clark Field.