Softball fights back twice

No. 8 Southern Indiana (36-8) passed the 35-win mark for the third straight season and last season’s win total of 35 after sweeping Wisconsin-Parkside (13-23) in a GLVC doubleheader on Friday.

The wins didn’t come easy for the Eagles, but USI’s head coach, Sue Kunkle, said the fact that they didn’t fold after being down in each game bodes well for the future with the postseason drawing closer.

“We had been notorious this whole season for getting flat once we’re down and then not being able to come back,” Kunkle said.

She said not being able to come back after the opposing team scores first is something the team has struggled with the entire season.

Of the team’s eight losses, seven of those have come when the opposing team has scored first, and the other was a walk-off loss against Saginaw Valley State on Feb. 26.

Kunkle said she thought the team hit the ball hard, but they left too many runners on base.

Over the course of both games, the Eagles left 20 runners on base, 12 of which were in scoring positions.

“We were a little flat in some areas today, but a win’s a win, and they don’t always look pretty,” Kunkle said.

Caitlyn Bradley (5-2), who pitched in game one allowed two runs in the first inning. She was able to rebound and keep Parkside scoreless for the remainder of the game as she pitched all seven innings to take the complete game.

For the game, Bradley gave up four hits, but only two of those came outside of the first inning.

“Cait’s just a gamer,” Kunkle said. “She shows no emotion, and she’s been pitching very well. I was even surprised by that first inning after a base hit and a walk because she usually sets the pace right away, but it didn’t phase her.”

Bradley also scored the game-winning run with a single to the left side of the field which brought pinch runner, Alisha Ludwig, home from third in the 3-2 victory.

“I just cleared my mind and hit how I knew I could hit,” Bradley said. “(As I made contact) I knew right away we were going to score and that was a huge relief off of my shoulders.”

She said she doesn’t have a set position because she plays wherever the teams needs her to. But when the coaching staff asks for her to pitch, she tries to eat up as many innings as she can to take the burden off of starting pitcher, Jennifer Leonhardt.

Leonhardt (21-1), who pitched in game two, picked up her 21st win of the season as USI won 2-1.

She also allowed Parkside to take the lead first when she gave up an RBI single to Parkside’s first basewoman, Rachel Seefeldt.

“The first few innings, things weren’t moving as well as I wanted them to, and it took me a little bit to settle in,” Leonhardt said. “Haley (Hodges) and Lexi (Reese) were telling me ‘throw strikes, that’s all we need’ and that got to me, and I was able to settle down.”

Leonhardt said she was having trouble adjusting to pitching the second game after sitting on the bench for the entire first game.

The team used her in the same role a week ago against Saint Joseph’s. For that game, she allowed two runs in seven innings of play. Leonhardt was pitched first the next day against U. Indy. She came away with her 10th complete-game shutout.

“It’s like a different mindset because I have to sit through a whole game,” Leonhardt said. “I’m still getting used to that. It’s a work in progress.”