BARTLESVILLE, Okla. – After two exciting games that each featured seventh-inning rallies that came up just short, Avila softball (14-12, 8-2 KCAC) earned a split with Oklahoma Wesleyan (19-11, 7-3 KCAC) in the KCAC Softball Battle of the Eagles on Saturday, keeping Avila locked into second place in the conference standings with only about a month left in the regular season.
OKWU got the scoring started in the first inning of Saturday's game one courtesy of a solo home run from slugger Lindy Alexander, but the Avila offense answered back for two in the third. After the Eagles loaded the bases with nobody out by way of just one hit, Brooke Day drew a bases-loaded walk and Cierra McGee hit a sacrifice fly to put the visitors up 2-1 after three.
Neither team was able to make much noise in the middle innings, but the Avila offense erupted for five in the sixth to jump out to a big lead. A couple of OWKU errors helped make the inning happen, and Avila, a team with plenty of power potential, utilized the small ball element perfectly, cranking out three singles in the inning to build their offensive output. Day delivered the fatal shot, a two-out, two-run base knock plating Mia Moreno and Chelsea Kurtz to cap off the five-spot.
OKWU was not done. The Eagles pulled one back in the bottom of the sixth and rallied for three more in the bottom of the seventh, getting a two-out, two-run double from Sofia Cardenas to pull within 7-5. But Avila starter Madison McKinney locked it in, forcing Tahlor Stefek to fly out and lock up an Avila victory in game one.
Cardenas paced the OKWU offense with two hits and three RBI, while Stefek pitched all seven innings and was saddled with the loss. McKinney, meanwhile, also went the distance for Avila, striking out nine against only one walk and earning a win in her sixth straight decision. Kurtz and Kennedee Meier each had two hits for Avila, while Day finished with three RBI.
After Avila surged ahead in the fifth and had to fend off an Oklahoma Wesleyan comeback in the seventh in game one, game two featured the complete opposite narrative: OKWU vaulted ahead in the fifth and had to fend off an Avila comeback to come away with the split in an 8-5 OKWU win.
Unlike the first game, however, there was plenty of offense from both sides early on. Avila recorded five total hits in the first and Trinity Morris singled home Day and McGee to put the visitors up 2-0 early. OKWU responded immediately, however, getting a two-run homer from Stefek in the first and a solo shot from Cardenas in the second to go up 3-2.
After Avila leveled the score on a run-scoring single from Emily Walton in the fourth, OKWU made its push, scoring three in the fifth and adding two more in the sixth to snag an 8-3 lead. But just like OKWU did in game one, Avila put together a rally in the seventh inning in game two: with one out, Meier walked and Moreno singled, and Kurtz tripled them both in to make it a three-run game. But they would get no closer, enabling OKWU to pull out the 8-5 win and split the series.
Just like in the first game, both starting pitchers went the distance in game two. Abbey Ely surrendered 11 hits but earned the win for OKWU, while Payton Walter was saddled with the loss. Stefek, who moved into center field for the second game after pitching the first, led the OKWU offense with two hits and three RBI while Kurtz produced a perfect 4-for-4 day with two RBI for Avila.
Avila softball will return home for the first time in a while to take on Bethany in another KCAC doubleheader at The Z on Wednesday. First pitch for the first game is slated for 2 PM, weather permitting, with the second game to follow around 4 PM; as always, links to live stats and video will be available on the Avila Sports Network.