Loyola-Chicago sweeps aside Otahks

Friday, March 8, 2002

The Southeast Missouri State University women's softball team dropped both ends of a doubleheader, 6-2 and 8-3, to Loyola University of Chicago on Thursday at University Field.

The Otahkians (0-6) were unable to make early leads stand in both games.

"I was disappointed with our pitching staff," Southeast coach Lana Richmond said. "We get three runs; you've got to hold it for us."

In the opener, Southeast jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning.

An error by the Loyola third baseman allowed leadoff hitter Dawn Piantino to reach second base. Piantino scored on an RBI single by DH Courtney Eklund, who crossed the plate on a base hit by first baseman Reagan Hamlin.

In the top of the fourth, Loyola shortstop Natalie Martin slugged a two-run homer to tie the game at 2-2.

Loyola (4-6) added three more in the fifth and a single tally in the seventh to close out the scoring.

Martin added a three-run double as she drove home five runs in the game.

"She was in a zone," Rambler coach Stephanie Henderson said. "It didn't matter where they pitched her; she just launched it."

In the second game, Loyola picked up a run in the second inning, but the Otahkians scored three in the third for a 3-1 lead.

With two outs, consecutive singles by Eklund, Hamlin and Katie Cerneka loaded the bases for second baseman Emmy Kisaka, who promptly emptied them with a career-first triple.

Right-fielder Cerneka led the Southeast offense with a 4-for-6 performance and Eklund went 3-for-7.

The emergence of Eklund and Cerneka was a big plus for the Otahkians.

"I've been playing a lot of different people," Richmond said, "but a couple of my outfielders are starting to come around and nail down starting positions for us."

The 3-1 lead, however, evaporated as the Ramblers scored five runs on just two hits in the fourth to go ahead, 6-3. Loyola added single runs in the fifth and sixth.

Senior Kristen King (0-2) took the opening-game loss, while freshman Kelly Birk (0-3) was charged with the loss in the second contest. Freshman Rachel Van Fleet saw relief duty in the opener.

Southeast's pitching staff gave up a combined total of 21 hits.

Richmond, entering her 20th season at Southeast with more than 600 wins, said she knew going into the season that pitching could be a concern.

"We've got two good-looking freshmen and a senior," Richmond said, "and they're just going to have to find a way to make it work. Right now, we're really inconsistent.

"I still believe in them. We're just going to have to go back to the drawing board and see what's going to work for us."

Added Richmond, defiantly, "We will find something that'll work."

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