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The Antelope

UNK softball hits off its home schedule

RYAN RANGE / ANTELOPE STAFF Junior Hannah Ice pitched 7 innings, had two strikeouts, and surrendered only four runs in game 1 against Pitt State. 

The UNK softball team started off their home schedule on April 2 in a double-header against Missouri Southern at Patriot Park. The Lopers have now played all over the Midwest since starting their season outside of the region in Texas. 

The team was excited to finally get the opportunity to play on their home field. 

“It’ll be exciting to play at home at Patriot Park in front of our friends and family,” said head coach Katie Ackermann. “We haven’t played at home since March of last year.”

The team was in Oklahoma last year when their season was postponed then canceled at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the Lopers have to follow a number of health protocols, they are still very grateful to have a season this year. 

“It’s definitely been mentally challenging not just for the players, but for the coaches as well; it’s such a privilege to be able to play again,” Ackermann said. “We are testing weekly and constantly having to apply to new rules depending on which conference we are playing in. Through it all, it’s still exciting to get on the field.”

The Lopers have scored particularly well this season, averaging 5.1 runs per game. They are led by junior Carlee Leisch with a .429 batting average and redshirt sophomore Bri Healy, who has eight home runs under her belt this year along with 25 RBIs. 

“As we got started this season offensively, we were just dominant and took some pressure off of our pitching staff,” Ackermann said. “It’s been fun to see these kids just go out there and hit the long ball.”

The game started off slow, but Missouri Southern scored on a double-play by the Lopers where Lions sophomore Leighton Withers was able to steal home just before the catch out at first base. The Lopers responded in the third inning when junior Avery Wood hit a triple and junior Abby Vodicka was able to hit Wood in to tie the game 1-1. 

Missouri Southern exploded in the top of the fifth inning as they scored four runs off of four hits and two errors by UNK. The Lopers responded in the bottom of the sixth inning. Healy was able to score on an error by the Lions and Wood was able to hit in two more points for the Lopers followed by a second error by Missouri Southern. Both teams were scoreless in the seventh inning, leading to a 4-5 loss by the Lopers in game one.

Both teams scored a run in the first inning of game two as junior Hailey Schaneman was able to hit in Vodicka. The Lions dominated the rest of the game scoring five more runs which included a two-run home run by senior Makaila Leonhart. The Lopers would finish the double-header 0-2 following the 1-6 loss in the second game. 

“We’re taking better care of business on the mound, and we’re keeping runs limited,” Ackermann said. “Offense is our identity and we’ve kind of lost it the last few days. We gotta keep swinging to find it. These girls just gotta believe in themselves at the plate.”

The Lopers took on the Pittsburg State Gorillas in another double-header on Saturday, April 3. UNK was looking to turn their weekend around after a rough start the day before.

“If they flush the Missouri Southern games and come back and trust the process that we are trying to tell them, then I think we will be all right,” Ackermann said.

The Gorillas took the lead 1-0 in the third inning and the Lopers would remain scoreless until the bottom of the seventh. Sophomore Katie Gosker hit a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to send the game into extra innings. Pittsburg State then exploded in the ninth inning with six runs on six hits and one error. The Lopers were unable to respond as the Gorillas won the game 1-7.

Trailing 1-2 in the second game, freshman Carly Dembowski hit a 2 RBI triple to give the Lopers a 3-2 lead. The Lopers would end the inning with a 4-2 lead as Schaneman was able to hit in Dembowski. The Gorillas were able to tie the game up 4-4 after the fourth inning and take the lead 4-5 after the fifth inning. Wood tied the game up with a sacrifice fly to score senior Lauren Streubing from third.

Pittsburg State scored in the seventh inning off a dropped fly ball by UNK center fielder Carlee Liesch. The Lopers were unable to score in the bottom of the inning as the Gorillas would go on to win 5-6. The Lopers will be back in action on Saturday in Hays, Kansas against Fort Hays State. They will be back at home on April 17 against Missouri Western. 

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GRANT TIGHE, Sports Editor
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