The Bethel College softball team saved the best for last on the first day of spring, salvaging a split in a double header against Hastings thanks to a big rally in their final at bats of the day.
“We finally started hitting the ball the way we should be,” said coach Stacy Middleton. ”Our average has been pretty good lately. … They deserve it. They are working really hard , have bought into the system and have turned a corner.”
Entering what was the 13th inning of play for the day, Bethel had mustered just four runs on six hits — but an explosion was coming. The Threshers, one of the top hitting teams in the NAIA thus far this season, exploded for six runs on five hits to etch a 10-4 win over Hastings.
“They are a pretty good team, they split with pretty much everyone in our conference,” Middleton said. “We needed to stay at least even with everyone else, this was a good team to split with.”
Hastings drew first blood in the ball game, scoring on the first at bat of the contest. Cara Williams tripled to center field, then scored on a throwing error. Hastings pushed across two more runs in the second to take a 3-0 lead.
Bethel’s bats began to awaken in the third inning, when Kiera Broehl legged out an infield single to lead off the stanza. Abbie Hutton followed with a hit, followed by Jeni Richenberger reaching on an error to give Bethel bases loaded with none away. Two hitters later, Michelle Schrag cleared the bases with a double to center field to tie the game. Bethel went up by a run when Schrag scored on a single by Madison McDowell.
Hastings tied the score at 4-4 with a run in the fourth, making use of a double, fielder’s choice and hit to plate the tying run.
In the sixth inning is when Bethel’s bats came fully awake — Reichenberger led off the inning with a single, followed by Kerrigan Simons reaching on an error. A base hit to center field by Schrag loaded the bases for Alyssa Sullivan who responded with a bases clearing double. McDowell collected her second RBI of the game shortly after, and then scored tow batters later on a center field double by Leisle Hoffman. Hoffman later scored the final run of the game, coming home on a fielder’s choice when Hastings tried to throw out a staling Autumn Lerback at second base.
Bethel dropped game one 2-0, with the Thresher’s only hit of the contest coming in the third inning when Madison McDowell singled to right field. McDowell was also the pitcher of record for Bethel, giving up two earned runs in four innings of work to take the loss.
The Threshers simply could not figure out Josie Bumgardner, who pitched a complete game shutout for Hastings, striking out 11 and walking two.
“She was really pretty good,” Middleton said. “… We had some little errors in that game. Their small ball really hurt us.”
Injuries have led to a realigned infield for the Threshers, something Hastings made use of by collecting infield hits.
“They found that and took advantage of that. They found that, and used that. We did not make adjustments quick enough,” Middleton said.
Bethel snapped a three-game losing streak, and ends their non-conference season with a 9-8 overall record. They begin conference play at 1 p.m. March 22, when they host the York Panthers at Thresher Field.