COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Western Kentucky University softball team opened the 2012 season in dramatic fashion, holding off a seventh-inning comeback from Cleveland State to win 4-3 in the Palmetto Classic hosted by South Carolina.
Mallorie Sulaski and Olivia Watkins each went 1-for-3 at the plate in the game with an RBI. Amanda Thomas and Katrina Metoyer also drove in runs in the Lady Toppers' win. Emily Rousseau, in her first career start in the circle for WKU, got the complete-game win. Rousseau allowed seven hits while striking out five batters.
"It was good to get the first win," said head coach Tyra Perry after Friday's victory. "It was good to see a lot of the things we'd been practicing show up at a high level. It was exciting to see Emily on the mound for the first time. She had a really good game and maintained control in all seven innings."
WKU (1-0) took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning on a manufactured run. Shawna Sadler led off the game by drawing a walk, then took second base after an errant throw from Vikings catcher Erica McNew. Kelsie Mattox then hit a foul ball down the right field line that was caught. Sadler then made the heads-up play to tag from second base and advance to third. Thomas then drove in Sadler with a sacrifice fly.
The Lady Toppers added a second run in the second inning. Freshman Preslie Cruce led off the inning with a single, followed by Laura Smith reaching first on an error. After Sulaski hit a single to load the bases, Metoyer drew a walk to give WKU a 2-0 lead. WKU seemed primed to score more runs, but Cleveland State (0-1) turned a triple play to get out of the inning. Watkins hit a liner right at the third baseman Nena Doran, who then stepped on third to put out Smith and threw to first to get Metoyer out.
Cleveland State tied the game in the bottom of the second. Doran led off the inning with a single. After an Andrea Nagy sacrifice bunt advanced Doran to second base, Caila Ferro hit a home run over the left field fence to make the score 2-0. The Lady Toppers took the lead back in the fourth inning. Karavin Dew led off the frame with a bunt single, then stole second base. Cruce was then hit by a pitch to give WKU runners at first and second with no outs. Laura Smith hit a grounder to pitcher Megan Bashak that allowed Cruce and Dew to advance one base. Sulaski then brought Dew in to score on an infield single, making the score 3-2. Watkins put the Lady Toppers ahead 4-2 with an RBI single of her own.
Rousseau kept the Vikings off the scoreboard in the next three innings. The sophomore pitcher allowed only two hits from the fourth through the sixth inning, striking out two batters in the process. Cleveland State attempted to rally in the seventh. Ferro led off the inning with a double to center field. Rousseau then struck out Gabby Gillilan and Bashak, but walked Alicia Nichols to give Cleveland State runners at first and third with two outs. Cynthia Woodard then stepped up to the plate and hit a single to right field, scoring Ferro to make the score 4-3. Nichols, however, tried to get to third on the play and was thrown out by Sadler to end the game.
WKU returns to action on Saturday morning with two more games in the Palmetto Classic. The Lady Toppers take on Winthrop at 9 a.m. and the host Gamecocks at 11 a.m.