Softball sweeps Indy as Leonhardt earns 20th win


Photo courtesy of Photo Services

Freshman Jennifer Leonhardt winds up to throw a pitch during a game last weekend. Leonhardt was named GLVC Pitcher of the Week for the third time this season.

After going 5-1 last week, including a doubleheader sweep of No. 14 University of Indianapolis, the No. 10 Southern Indiana softball team is one game away from matching last season’s win total.

Four of the Eagles’ five wins came when freshman pitcher, Jennifer Leonhardt (20-1), stepped into the pitching circle.

Leonhardt was named GLVC Pitcher of the Week for the third time this season after she added two complete-game shutouts to go along with a 1.09 ERA and a .211 BAA in the four wins.

After pitching once Saturday and twice Sunday, Leonhardt said she’s surprised with her success because she didn’t expect to pitch that much this season, but she’s learning her role.

“In the past, I (was) used to throwing until I (couldn’t) throw anymore,” Leonhardt said. “I haven’t had to do that this year, so now I need to get back into that conditioning shape.”

Leonhardt said she’s noticed her pitches become less sharp once she starts tiring down in games. In two of the last three games she’s pitched, Leonhardt allowed two earned runs each game.

“The goal is not to have anybody score, but it’s the game and people are going to score,” she said.

With the 5-2 win in game two Sunday, Leonhardt is now five games short of tying the all-time single-season win record by an university pitcher. The record was set in 1998 by USI Hall of Famer, Amy Stetler.

To secure her 20th win, Leonhardt needed some help from sophomore utility player, Caitlyn Bradley, who knocked in three RBIs with a second inning home run and pitched in the last 2 ⅓ innings, allowing no runs for her second save of the season.

“I just knew that I had to go into the game and keep UIndy down because Jenn did a nice job in the first game, but they were starting to gain on her in the second game,” Bradley said.

She said head coach, Sue Kunkle, told her about entering the game in relief before the fifth inning started, which helped her prepare mentally for when the ball and the game would be placed in her hands.

Kunkle said the decision to pitch Leonhardt in back-to-back games stemmed from how well she pitched in the first game and what her pitch count was at the end of the game.

“I’m not that coach where I’m going to put her in a danger zone,” Kunkle said.

She said Leonhardt kept UIndy’s offense off-balance, but she made sure both Bradley and Courtney Atkisson were available if needed.

“(Leonhardt) started throwing a few too many balls, and they had a couple hard hits off her, and it was starting to get into the fourth or fifth inning and we knew it was about time to switch it up,” Kunkle said.

She said, after seeing the UIndy batters, she knew Bradley was the pitcher she wanted to relieve Leonhardt.

With Bradley’s save, USI moves to 34-8, 13-5 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. Kunkle said every win is necessary as the team battles for first place.

“There’s a lot of season left, and anything can happen, but we have our eyes on the prize,” Kunkle said. “The prize is first place and the post season. We want to make it to the big dance.”

The Eagles enter this week of play sitting at second in the GLVC standings behind Rockhurst, a team they split with March 19.