BOCA RATON, Fla. — The WKU softball team opened play at the Florida Atlantic Embassy Suites Tournament Friday morning, taking down Providence 5-1 before dropping a close 1-0 nine-inning pitchers duel with Minnesota at the FAU Softball Stadium.
WKU (16-6) started the day strong against Providence (2-7). Shawna Sadler led off the game with a single, then stole second base. Kelsie Mattox was hit by a pitch to give the Lady Toppers runners at first and second. After a strikeout, Amanda Thomas doubled down the right field line, scoring Sadler to give WKU a 1-0 lead. Mallorie Sulaski followed with another base hit, bringing in both Mattox and Thomas to score to put the Lady Toppers ahead 3-0.
Kim Wagner controlled the Friars batters early, striking out four in the first two innings. Thomas put WKU up by four, 4-0, in the top of the third with her fifth home run of the season, a solo shot over the right field fence. Providence attempted to get on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth, getting the first two batters on base. After a sacrifice bunt by Michelle Huber moved the runners into scoring position with one out, Wagner got both Jessie Bryant and Stephanie Kiesel to strike out swinging to get out of the inning.
WKU added another run in the fourth. With two outs in the inning, Karavin Dew singled up the middle. She then reached second base on a passed ball. Olivia Watkins then singled through the left side to get Dew to third base. The Lady Toppers then executed a double-steal. Dew stole home to make the score 5-0 with Watkins eventually getting to third as Kaitlyn Duval's throw home was errant. Providence scored one run in the bottom of the sixth, but that was all the offense the Friars could muster.
Wagner struck out eight batters in six innings for the win in the circle. Five Lady Toppers had two hits against Providence, with Thomas and Sulaski contributing two RBI each.
The Lady Toppers and Minnesota (15-4) engaged in a pitchers duel in game two between sophomore Emily Rousseau and the Golden Gophers' Sara Moulton. Rousseau pitched out of an early jam in the top of the first. With runners at second and third with one out, the sophomore hurler forced flyouts from Kari Dorle and Alex Davis to get out of the inning. WKU got it's first two hits of the game in the bottom of the second inning, when Sulaski and Laura Smith had back-to-back two-out singles. However, Moulton struck out Dew to end the frame.
After Minnesota's threat in the first, Rousseau shut down the Golden Gophers. At one point she retired 15 straight batters before Tyler Walker hit a single off of her with one out in the top of the sixth. Moulton also did her part to keep WKU off the scoreboard, allowing just two Lady Toppers to reach base through the sixth inning.
The game would go into extra innings, with Minnesota scoring the first run of the game in the top of the ninth inning. After Bree Blanchette put down a sacrifice bunt to move Erika Smyth to third, Walker hit an infield single to bring Smyth in to score. Rousseau held Minnesota to just the one run, striking out Erica Meyer while Dew threw out Walker trying to steal second. WKU had a chance to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth. Mattox singled and got to second, putting Sadler at third with no outs. Preslie Cruce hit a long foul ball to left field that was caught by Meyer. Meyer threw home to catch Sadler who tagged up from third and put her out for the first two outs of the inning. After Thomas was hit by a pitch, Katrina Metoyer grounded out to end the game.
Rousseau set a new career-high with nine innings pitched and tied a career-high with 10 strikeouts. She allowed just two hits and one walk. Moulton struck out eight batters in nine innings for Minnesota, allowing four hits.
The Lady Toppers conclude their 11-game road trip tomorrow with two more games in Boca Raton. WKU will play Boston College at 10 a.m. before concluding it's Sun Belt Conference series with the host Florida Atlantic at 5 p.m.