Lady Tigers top Bulldogs
Emily Akelaitis found her comfort zone even before she stepped in the circle.
After Northwestern leadoff hitter Avery George scored the game’s first run in the top of the first inning, the Tigers’ right-handed hurler gained a lot of confidence before throwing her first pitch.
Given the lead, Akelaitis quickly gained control of the game. Her teammates continued to tack on runs, though, making her job a bit easier and the Tigers went on to secure a 12-1 Colonial League victory over rival Northern Lehigh.
“When you’re getting ready to go out there and pitch, it helps you out when your offense backs you up with a quick lead,” Akelaitis said. “That boosts your confidence level, and it also helps keeps the momentum going.”
Unfortunately for the league-leading Bulldogs, Akelaitis and her defense made it quite a challenge for them to get on the scoreboard.
Akelaitis only needed 94 pitches to keep Northern Lehigh in check, finishing with a three-hitter.
“They (Northern Lehigh) were a hot team coming in,” Northwestern head coach Josh Zimmerman said. “We knew we had to keep the pressure on. Once we got that one run in the first inning, she knows it’s a whole lot easier to pitch with a lead. We just kept adding on there and the girls showed up to play today.”
The Tigers (5-3; 5-3) kept boosting Akelaitis’s confidence by scoring more runs and playing solid defense.
Northwestern’s Ashley Sisco belted a three-run home run to deep left field in the third inning to extend the lead to 4-0.
George added another run in the fourth with an RBI single.
While the Tigers got another run in the fifth on an Akelaitis sacrifice fly, they pretty much took the Bulldogs out of the game with a six-run seventh inning.
Akelaitis then finished things off, recording two of her six strikeouts in the bottom of the seventh.
“To their credit, they’re truly never out of a game,” Zimmerman said. “That’s why we kind of kept the pressure on there and made sure we didn’t leave any doubt about this one. But I think that top of the seventh we definitely put an exclamation point on the game and we showed we can contend with anybody in this league.”
After two Bulldog miscues in the seventh, Akelaitis, Sisco and Jess Badman hit back-to-back-to-back singles. Pinch-hitter McKayla Wildrick joined the Tigers’ offensive barrage with a two-run double, and Bree Bliss capped the scoring with a fielder’s choice RBI.
Northern Lehigh (7-2; 6-2) came into the contest averaging 6.4 runs per game but could never get the bats going against Akelaitis.
With Northern Lehigh threatening to tie the game in the bottom of the first, the Northwestern defense stepped up. Akelaitis caught a line drive off the bat of Shyanna Williams and doubled off a Bulldog runner at first base.
Eight Tigers collected hits. Sisco led the way with a single, home run, two runs scored and four RBIs. Brooke Wehr (two singles, three runs scored) and Akelaitis (two singles, three RBIs) also finished with multiple hits.
Williams paced the Bulldogs with an RBI single, while Kaitlin Hoffman and Lauren Hoffman added the other hits. Lead-off hitter Tiff Yesik scored the Bulldogs’ lone run in the sixth inning.
The situation was eerily similar to last year’s late-season game when Northwestern and Salisbury went into the last inning with a tie score.
The Tigers won that battle back on May 9 of 2016, but the Falcons got revenge last Wednesday with a 6-5 come-from behind win on their home field.
“This was the same exact scenario (as last season’s game at Northwestern),” said Salisbury head coach Jeff Appleman. “It was the same exact score. Same exact scenario in the bottom of the seventh inning with two outs and nobody on.
“The only difference was the victor. It went our way this time.”
The Falcons’ Gretchen Helsel poked a seventh-inning single between third base and shortstop to bring in teammate Morgan Goletz with the game-winning run last Wednesday’s game.
The Falcons pushed three runs across home plate to score some redemption against their Colonial League Division South Division rival.
Salisbury took a 3-1 lead in the third inning thanks to a hits by Brooke Rogers and Lil Crouthamel, along with a three-base error on the Falcons. The Tigers soon fought back with a three-run sixth inning.
Tiger pitcher Emily Akelaitis hit a two-run home run, which scored Ashley Sisco. Then, Breeanna Bliss capped the inning with an RBI-triple, scoring Natalie Smith.
The Tigers had a 5-3 lead entering the bottom of the sixth inning. Akelaitis was able score a 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the sixth.
The Tigers threated in the sixth, as Avery George doubled before Brooke Wehr drew a walk. But Falcon pitcher Emily Silberman got out of the jam to keep her team within striking distance.
Salisbury’s rally started with two outs when Payton Stauffer tripled to right-centerfield and scored on a wild pitch. Kaitlyn Kellez drew a walk before Morgan Goletz reached base on an infield hit. The Falcons’ Bryanna Driscol delivered an RBI-single to tie the game and Helsel ended it with the game-winning RBI.
“They will definitely remember this,” Appleman said. “These are the type of games you are going to see in the Colonial League. This league is so up and down with talent. The talent is good. I think we’re going to see a lot of games like this.”
Northwestern head coach Josh Zimmerman agrees that the league has a lot of balance this year. He
“If you look at the league website every day, it’s amazing seeing all the close scores and who’s beating who,” he said. “It’s a wide-open league. To win these close ones, it’s a lot of focus and attention to detail. I think we lacked that in some of our defensive play today a little bit.
“But, that’s why you play the game. This is what it takes to win against a quality opponent. You’ve got to keep your focus. You’ve got to keep your determination and never fall asleep while you’re out there. Today, it just wasn’t our day.”