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Lopers start season off strong in Texas

Kaitlyn Johnson looks to get a hit against Garden City CC. Photo by Kosuke Yoshii

UNK Softball began a new era in the program’s history at the Lubbock Sports Collegiate Invite Friday through Sunday. In Katie Ackermann’s first tournament as the head coach, the Lopers posted a record of 3-3.

In the first game of the tournament, UNK matched up against Eastern New Mexico State.

The Lopers got on the board early in the contest, thanks to struggles on the mound by Greyhound pitcher Jordan Bowman.

Abby Vodicka (Lincoln, Nebraska) started the game off by being walked, followed by Alexis Ray (Platte City, Missouri) being hit by a pitch. A flyout by Carlee Liesch (Lincoln, Nebraska) helped drive in the first run of the season for UNK.

Eastern New Mexico found a way back into the game after falling behind early 1-0. The Greyhounds scored one in the first and strung together several singles in the second. After two innings of play, the Lopers trailed 3-1.

Starting pitcher for UNK Erin Hallman (Lakewood, Colorado) settled in after being scored on early. She ended up allowing three runs in four innings of work.

“I was definitely pleased,” said Hallman. “First game out of the season you never know how everything is going to come together.”

Trailing 4-2, the Lopers got on the comeback trail in the fifth inning. Avery Wood (Kearney, Nebraska) hit a triple and a double by Jasmyn Broussard (Omaha, Nebraska) drove her in.

Singles by Kaitlyn Johnson (Kearney, Nebraska) and Nicole Spykstra (Chandler, Arizona) helped put the Lopers up 5-4.

UNK tacked on six more runs in the top of the six and went on to win 8-4. It was a perfect start to the season for a team who went 0-7 to begin 2019.

“It was exactly what we have been practicing and putting in the hours for,” winning pitcher Halman said. “We knew we were better than an 0-7 team and we proved it. It was great that I got to be in the circle to get the team off to a solid start.”

Against Texas Permian Basin, the Lopers got off to a great offensive start. Johnson hit a two-run homer to left-center in the bottom of the third to give UNK a 4-1 lead.

The Falcons answered back in a big way with a two-run home run to left by April Arellano. Sydney Bishop singled to left field and put TPB up 6-4.

Over the next two innings, the Lopers scored three more runs, to tie the game up at 7-7 going into the bottom of the sixth.

It didn’t start well for UNK, as Liesch was thrown out at first after bunting and Ray lined out to second base. Next up was the transfer from New Mexico State Spykstra.

She was patient in the box and waited for her pitch, connecting with a ball that soared over the left-center field fence. It turned out to be the winning run in the Lopers 8-7 victory over the Falcons.

The winning pitcher for UNK was Sarah Handrahan (Festus, Missouri) and earning the save was Megan Blake (Clay Center, Kansas).

On Saturday the Lopers struggled, dropping their first game 8-4 to Colorado Spring and their second one 5-4 to host school Lubbock Christian. On Sunday morning, Jordan Neely had three RBI’s against UNK in a 14-6 win for St. Edward.

In the final game of the tournament, the Lopers took a 3-0 lead over New Mexico Highlands thanks to a two-run home run by Emma Osowski (Omaha, Nebraska).

UNK held onto its lead until the bottom of the seventh.

With two outs left to go in the game, Victoria Mata singled and Camrynn Ziegler doubled to set up the Cowgirls with the tying run.

In the top of the eighth, the Lopers broke the tie when Bri Healy (Omaha, Nebraska) scored on an error made by NMH. Katie Gosker (Blair, Nebraska) singled up the middle scoring Osowski and putting UNK up 5-3.

In the bottom half of the inning, the Lopers held the Cowgirls to one run and secured the 5-4 victory.

Earning her first win on the year was relief pitcher Blake. She gave up no earned runs in 1.2 innings pitched.

UNK is back in Texas next weekend at the Midwestern State Invite Feb.14-15.

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