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Close calls haunt Southeast Missouri State softball team
The Southeast Missouri State softball team finished the season on a high note by sweeping Wednesday's nonconference doubleheader from visiting Belmont.
But the Redhawks, who took the opener 5-3 and rallied for a wild 14-13, 10-inning victory in the nightcap, couldn't help but think what might have been.
The Redhawks (25-30) already had been eliminated from contention for a berth in next week's six-team Ohio Valley Conference tournament primarily because they couldn't post nearly enough wins like the ones they captured Wednesday.
"It seemed like we could never finish off games," junior Kaitlin Wallace said. "It was nice to finish these out."
The Redhawks went 13-16 in OVC play, currently good for seventh place in the 11-team league with the conference's other 10 squads finishing their OVC schedules this weekend.
Southeast needs to look no further than its 14 OVC losses by one or two runs as the reason its season won't continue. The Redhawks went 4-17 overall in one-run games.
"It's been that kind of season. It's been frustrating. We were right there," longtime coach Lana Richmond said. "You can't fault the girls. Their effort has always been there. We just came up short."
Wallace said she was thrilled that Southeast's five seniors got to experience success during their final collegiate games played on their home field.
"We definitely wanted to get them a couple of wins," she said.
Renee Kertz, one of those seniors, reached a major milestone Wednesday with an RBI in each game.
Kertz, who broke Southeast's single-season RBI record last season, tied the school's career mark in her final at-bat.
"It mainly felt good to win," Kertz said. "We were so close this year."
Non-seniors did much of the damage against Belmont (11-34), which joins the OVC next year.
Sophomore Alora Marble pitched her 24th complete game of the season in the opener. She allowed three hits and two earned runs while striking out four and walking three.
Belmont went ahead 3-1 with three runs in the third inning, but Southeast used the long ball to regain the lead for good.
Wallace belted a two-run homer with two outs in the fourth inning for a 3-3 tie. Freshman Lindsey Patterson followed with a pinch-hit solo blast for the eventual game-winning hit.
Kertz added insurance with a home run, her team-leading sixth of the season, in the fifth inning. She had two hits in each game.
Patterson finished second on the squad with five homers.
The nightcap was wild. Southeast trailed 4-0 and 6-4 before rallying for a 7-6 lead entering the seventh inning. But Belmont scored four runs with two outs in the seventh inning.
Southeast wasn't finished. The Redhawks loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the seventh after three errors by the Bruins. Wallace delivered a two-out double that cleared the bases and tied the contest at 10-10, but she was thrown out at the plate on a single by Kertz.
Both teams scored once in the eighth inning after a runner was placed on second via the international tiebreaker rule. Both squads scored twice in the ninth to send things to the 10th at 13-13.
Marble (15-15) held Belmont scoreless in the 10th in her second inning of work. She ultimately was rewarded with her second win of the night.
Southeast finally ended the three-hour marathon in its half of the 10th on senior Shelby Stein's one-out single that scored Patterson.
"I was just happy. Good memories," Stein said.
Junior Taylor Cowan went 5 for 6 in the nightcap that featured five errors by each team. She homered, doubled twice and drove in seven runs.
Stein had three of Southeast's 15 hits. Kertz and Evan Sallis added two hits.
Richmond appreciated the work during their careers of seniors Kertz, Stein, Sallis, Cheyenne Gipson and Stefanie Barnes. Kertz and Stein were four-year starters, while Sallis and Gipson started the past two years after transferring to Southeast.
Sallis (.367) led Southeast in hitting, while Gipson (.319) was fourth. They are among the league leaders in stolen bases with 22 and 17, respectively.
"I can't say enough about the seniors," Richmond said. "Three of the five [Kertz, Barnes and Stein] have been here four years. All of these individuals are excellent student-athletes. What a career Renee has had.
"We were down to our last out in three straight innings tonight [the seventh through the ninth]. I think they're going to remember their last game here."