Softball splits series against Avila to remain in second place in the Heart

By Vic McDowell, Circuit

Benedictine split its home weekend set with Avila with a 6-4 win in the second game, rebounding from a 2-0 loss in the first game.

The Lady Raven’s bats were stifled in the first game. Avila’s Tori Aziere twirled a gem, no-hitting Benedictine (20-11, 7-3 Heart) while striking out nine batters. Her only misstep was walking senior Jenna Fitzpatrick on four straight balls to start the game.

Benedictine’s Katie Ricklefs matched Aziere for four innings before giving up two runs in the top of the fifth inning.

Two runs would be enough to take the opener for the Lady Eagles (22-8-1, 8-4).

Avila jumped out to an early two run lead in the second game before the Lady Raven’s bats arrived.

Back-to-back triples by junior Sierra Esau and senior Megan Eldredge put Benedictine on the board for the first time in the series.

“So many things can win a ballgame, but I credit Sierra’s at bat with changing the momentum of the game, because we were down 2-0,” said coach Dana Goss. “She battled back from 0-2 to a full count, and makes a great base hit that turns into a triple, and all of a sudden we have energy, so (Esau) was a spark to that.”

Benedictine added three runs in the second inning and two more in the fifth, to take a 6-2 lead into the sixth inning.

Junior pitcher Annie Turbyfill ran into trouble after the first two batters reached safely. Turbyfill yielded the game to Ricklefs, the previous game’s starter. The junior allowed a run to score, but stranded two Avila runners.

The Lady Eagles squeaked across another run in the seventh, but Ricklefs was able to shut the door on the comeback attempt.

Goss credited the pitching staff for responding to adversity and stabilize the group.

“[The coaches] worked them really hard in practice, fixed a couple things mechanically, but the biggest thing is their mindset,” Goss said. “They need to have the mindset that they set a tone for us and carry [the team].”

Ricklefs has struck out 29 batters in the last six games, including 10 against Baker on April 1.

“We’ve gotten really good command from our pitching,” Goss said. “I still don’t think we’re clicking yet, but I can see it coming.”

With the split, Benedictine remains in second place in the Heart.

The Lady Ravens have won five of their last six games to come within three games back of No. 10 Central Methodist.

Goss feels the team needs to retain a “tunnel-vision” mindset to make sure they finish strong as Benedictine’s final eight games are against teams with a combined conference record of 14-20.

“We still have a lot of quality games left that we need to focus on, and we have to battle every game or else anyone can beat you,” Goss said. “When you sit back and wait for things to happen instead of making them happen, we’re not going to go where we want to go.”

Goss said her team needs to challenge each other every day.

“They’ve got to understand when you’re at practice you’re competing and trying to win, because in a game the other team isn’t going to take it easy,” Goss said.

Up next for the Lady Ravens is a home game against the fourth place Evangel University Crusaders Apr. 11.