IUC softball makes big improvement from first game to second, but can’t avoid sweep

IU Columbus third baseman and Columbus North grad Lexi Heafner throws to first against IU Southeast at Ceraland in Columbus, Ind., Wednesday, April 17, 2024.

Mike Wolanin | The Republic

The difference between the first and second games of Wednesday afternoon’s River States Conference softball doubleheader was monumental, but unfortunately for IU Columbus, the result for both was a loss.

After being no-hit in a 16-0, five-inning loss in the opener, the Crimson Pride had a chance to win the second game against conference-leading IU Southeast. But IUC hit-and-ran into inning-ending double plays in both the sixth and seventh in a 7-6 defeat.

IU Columbus led 4-3 after four innings of the second game before the Grenadiers scored twice in the fifth and twice in the sixth to take a 7-4 lead. The Crimson Pride came back with two in the bottom of the sixth and had the bases loaded with one out in bottom of the seventh.

Gracie Holok, who was 4 for 4 with a double and a home run at that point, hit a line drive that looked like it might be the game-winner. But IU Southeast shortstop Cassi Roman went to her right to make a backhanded catch and flipped to third to double off what would have been the tying run.

“It’s mental errors,” IUC coach Tommi Stowers said. “It’s never physical for us this year. We lose focus the last two innings. We can’t shut the door. That comes with age, and that comes with development.”

Mallory Shelton went 2 for 2 with two doubles, and Delanie Bronner and Brown County graduate Taylor Poling each went 2 for 4 for the Crimson Pride.

IUC went from having no hits in the first game to 14 in the second.

“The Game 1 pitcher (Madison Wathen), she’s actually the best pitcher in our conference,” Stowers said. “We actually adjusted too much. We were early because we practiced all week just training for her because she can throw the ball pretty hard. She throws a lot of upward movement, so that was our main focus. She just is an all-around stud.

“Once they changed pitching, we were waiting for that shift, we knew that if we could be early on their best pitcher, we would catch up to their other pitchers,” she added. “We started having quality at-bats. It came down to who could hit a pop-up the highest and watch the wind blow it out.”

Sydney Owens pitched 5 2/3 innings, and Alexia Rieckers threw the final 1 1/3 for the Crimson Pride. They combined to allow 10 hits and six earned runs.

In the opener, the Grenadiers collected 16 hits off IUC pitchers Erica Henry, Madison Brittain and Calie Beieks. IU Southeast leadoff batter Josie Lemmons, a freshman from Columbus North, went 1 for 2 in the opener and 1 for 3 in the second game.

“It’s been a great day for us, especially with such a long fight that we had to go through in that second game,” Lemmons said. “I think we’re doing great things, and I’ve been lucky enough to experience it first-hand.”

The Crimson Pride (10-20, 8-14) visit Saint Mary-of-the-Woods for doubleheaders Friday and Saturday, Brescia for a doubleheader April 26 and Oakland City for a doubleheader April 27 to close the regular season. IUC also has a home makeup to play against Midway (Kentucky) that likely will be scheduled for the middle of next week, with the RSC Tournament beginning the following week.