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Hitz’s squeeze bunt gives Shockers 12-inning victory

Grant Cohen

Senior+Macklin+Hitz+cheers+as+she++runs+to+home+base+after+hitting+a+homerun+against+Nebraska.+
Senior Macklin Hitz cheers as she  runs to home base after hitting a homerun against Nebraska.

Senior Macklin Hitz cheers as she runs to home base after hitting a homerun against Nebraska.

Selena Favela

Selena Favela

Senior Macklin Hitz cheers as she runs to home base after hitting a homerun against Nebraska.

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Senior Macklin Hitz struck out three times and did not have a hit through her first five at-bats, but head coach Kristi Bredbenner was still confident that the .295 hitter could come up with the biggest play of Saturday’s doubleheader.

In the fourth 12-inning game in Wichita State softball history, Bredbenner told Hitz to lay down a bunt to set up senior Kelli Spring to score the game-winning run from third.

“I knew who was up and I feel like Kelli is a good matchup on their corners. If she gets a bunt down, she’s definitely going to beat it out,” Bredbenner said. “I didn’t tell anybody (before the at-bat) that we were going to squeeze. After the first pitch that (Macklin) swung out, she really hadn’t had a lot of success at the plate, I figured why not.”

On an 0-1 count, Hitz put down a suicide squeeze bunt five feet in front of home plate. Spring dashed to home plate as Evansville pitcher Morgan Florey belted a fastball across the strike zone.

The team leader in stolen bases slid at home plate feet first, escaping the tag out by just a step as the squeeze play successful gave the Shockers a 4-3 win in Saturday’s doubleheader.

“I was pretty confident getting the bunt down,” Hitz said. “We practice it all the time and it’s usually not an issue. Before the game, we have our little groups that throw each other bunts and one of my groups’ things is we throw it literally where it should not be bunted and we work on it all the time .

“So I was like, ‘anywhere near the plate I’m going to be able to get it down.'”

 

Freshman Madison Perrigan crushed a right field double that brought sophomore Laurie Derrico home from second to tie knot the game at one run a piece in the bottom of the second inning. Florey and senior Jenni Brooks battled for six consecutive shutout innings, with Brooks striking out four batters to keep the score tied at one run a piece through eight innings.

Spring bobbled a ball at second base in the top of the ninth that put the go-ahead run at first base. Evansville’s Morgan Lambert took advantage of the game’s first error, slamming a left center home run that gave the Purple Aces a 3-1 lead.

“We have a lot of confidence in each other and we’re all great hitters,” Spring said. “I was kind of upset because I had one of the errors, but I told them ‘I’ll get you back. I’ll get on base, I’ll get a hit.’ So we all know our role. None of us were really thinking that it was over.”

After sophomore Asea Weber grounded out to first, Derrico hit her 11th home run of the season to cut the deficit to one. A double by Perrigan put the tying run at second, with a base hit by senior Ashley Johnson moving pinch runner Cassidy Kelsheimer to third base.

A stolen base by Johnson put the Shockers in a situation where a single would win the game, having junior Mackenzie Wright, a .378 hitter, at the plate. Wright hit a hard ball deep in the left field warning tracks caught by Evansville left fielder Ashlee Kawall, allowing Kelsheimer to score the tying run but preventing the go-ahead run from scoring.

Evansville’s Brittany Hay managed to get a one-out single and a steal second base to once again put the Purple Aces in an opportunity to retake the lead in the top of the tenth. Senior Katie Malone would keep the score in check, striking out Florey and forced Lambert into a grounder to shortstop.

The Shockers scored five runs in the bottom of the first inning of game two to shutout the Purple Aces and claim the day sweep. Saturday’s two wins give Malone 24 on the season, tying Patty Bautista’s 1989 record for most wins in a season.

“The one thing that (Brooks and Malone) have going for them is this is it for them,” Bredbenner said. “Not adding the stress of that or playing outside of what you can do, but just enjoying the process, enjoying these last couple of weeks and really making the most of it. I think that they’ve both done a really good job of that and enjoying the season and having fun having success.”

Bredbenner moved into a tie for second on the all-time win list in program history with Saturday’s wins. WSU (30-19, 14-9) will play in their final regular season game as members of the Missouri Valley Conference on Sunday at 11 a.m. at Wilkins Stadium.

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