Entering their April 18 SLIAC matchup with Principia College, the Blackburn softball team had already more than doubled the team’s win total from a season ago with a 7-15 record, and while they had already played an essential role in head coach Kerry Crum’s plan of rebuilding a once-neglected program, the Beavers wanted even more.
In the first of two games against the Panthers, Blackburn dug an early hole, falling behind 6-0 in the top of the second inning. Throughout the game, the team had multiple chances to cut into the lead, but several abnormal errors on the basepaths cost them several scoring chances. Creating a major bind for themselves and looking for a change in momentum, the Beavers dug deep, and just like they have numerous times throughout the season, showed tremendous resiliency as they slowly fought their way back into the contest.
Just when the Blackburn fans began to feel comfortable with their team’s 10-7 lead heading into the sixth inning, Principia took one out of the Beavers’ playbook and put together a 4-run inning and regained the lead 11-10. With bases loaded and nobody out, Crum called on sophomore Jensen Ballinger to relieve freshman Kaitlyn Wade and clean up a messy inning. Ballinger did her best to stop the bleeding but the damage had been done and once again the Beavers found themselves trailing with work to do.
In the bottom of the sixth Blackburn was unable to muster a run despite loading the bases but Ballinger came up big as she was able to sit the Panthers down in order in the seventh, giving her team a chance to win it in their final at-bats.
In the bottom of the seventh, still down 11-10, Freshman Lexie Yockey – who represented what would be the tying run – drew a leadoff walk. Walking Yockey, who is hitting .370 with a .466 slugging percentage, may not have been such a bad thing for the Panthers if that didn’t mean bringing up junior Daniele Burnell who holds a .419 average and a .645 slugging percentage with eight doubles and one home run on the year.
Walking Yockey was not what cost the Panthers the game however. Burnell’s one home run turning into two home runs did. With one swing of the bat, Burnell turned a lost opportunity into a celebration at home plate and set the tone for the second game as well.
In game two, Ballinger again took the mound and was able to pick up her second win of the night and fifth of the season. Again, the Beavers took chances away from themselves as multiple baserunning blunders prevented a potential 5-inning run rule victory. Despite the missed opportunities, the Beavers were able to hold onto a 5-0 lead into the sixth in an eventual 8-4 win, extending their win streak to four games and earning them a 9-15 record.
*The author is a member of the Blackburn College softball team