Throughout their first 17 games of the season, the Blackburn softball team has shown great flair, positive energy and all-around togetherness, but two things have been lacking: an upset and the longball. Luckily for the Beavers, the two went hand-in-hand when they matched up against Webster University in a SLIAC conference showdown on Apr. 12.
When the Blackburn bus made its final turn on the way to their game, a sign came into view, “Welcome to Blackburn Park”. Though they were the ones making the road trip, team members could be heard joking about how “this is our place” as they made their way off of the bus and onto the eventual battlefield. While the Beavers struggled offensively in the first game of the doubleheader, those words seemed to foreshadow what would come to be in the second.
For Blackburn, when they manage a big first inning, good things seem to follow. Junior right fielder Daniele Burnell made sure big things happened. With runners on second and third with one out, Burnell unleashed a seam-busting swing that sent the ball over the fence for both hers and the team’s first home run of the season.
After being shutout in the first game by a score of 8-0, Burnell’s blast gave the Beavers exactly what they needed – a spark and the confidence that they could beat a team on top of the SLIAC conference. With an 8-1 conference record and an eight-game winning streak on the line, Blackburn knew the Gorlocks of Webster were not going down without a fight. And they didn’t.
With solo runs in the first, second and fourth innings, the Gorlocks came back to even the score at three a piece. While it would have been fairly easy for the Beavers to get down on themselves and allow Webster to build on their momentum, Blackburn’s fight and determination only grew stronger.
On the mound for the Beavers, freshman Kaitlyn Wade stepped up big time and time again, getting the team out of multiple jams right when they needed it most. The sixth and seventh innings were no different.
With the score still tied 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth, Wade and the Beavers found themselves in a one-out, runners on first and second pickle. As the Gorlocks’ dugout went ballistic with hopes of taking the lead, Blackburn had other plans. With an inside pitch, Webster batter Katlyn Garza sent a ball to the Blackburn third baseman who quickly stepped on third and fired to first for the inning-ending double play.
Entering the top of the 7th inning, junior Hannah Goett knew the team needed something special, something to build momentum on. She couldn’t let the game slip away, so she took matters into her own hands. With two outs, Goett turned on a pitch. Before the ball had even gotten passed the infield, multiple members of the team were already running out of dugout, no doubt in their mind that she had just given them the lead.
That homerun blast proved to be the difference maker as Blackburn narrowly held on to defeat Webster 4-3 despite the Gorlocks advancing a runner to third with one out. Again, Wade came up big as she struck out Kat Sullens for the second out and then forced yet another ground ball out to seal the victory and bringing Blackburn’s record to 5-13.
*The author is a member of the Blackburn College softball team