By Aaron Stoner and Mike Staley – Collegiate Staff
The Grand Rapids Community College softball team dropped both games against the Muskegon Community College Jayhawks Thursday afternoon in a doubleheader at Belknap Park in Grand Rapids.
The first match saw the Raiders bats come to life almost matching the Jayhawks hit for hit, but ultimately losing 11-8 with only four of those 11 runs being earned.
“Something we’ve been talking about is not allowing other teams to have what we consider seven or eight outs in an inning,” Head Coach Brian Skudre said. “We did that I think in three consecutive innings where…we had to get more than three outs in an inning and when you do that, it doesn’t matter if it’s college or high school, they’re going to score runs on you and that’s what we had. Defense turned it around after that, but at that point it was almost too late.”
Muskegon opened the game with five big runs off starting pitcher Casey Evans and the Raiders would have to play from behind the rest of the game.
A two run double off the bat of Josie Manion in the bottom of the first, who would later go on to relieve Evans on the mound, narrowed the gap, but another huge six run inning by the Jayhawks in the top half of the third practically cemented the game giving them an 11-2 lead.
Something had to change and that’s when Skudre went to the mound to make the change at pitcher and talk to his team.
“Our coach came out to the mound and kind of talked some sense into our heads,” Evans said. “I think we just needed to put our heads into it and basically take out heads out of our asses.”
The Raiders wouldn’t go down without a fight and with Manion on the mound, they seemed to tighten things up.
In the bottom of the third, a single from shortstop Sierra Stoepker, and then back to back to hits by center fielder Makayla Beld and Manion scored two more runs and brought the score to 11-5.
The Raiders still weren’t done swinging as they would tally one run in the fourth, and two more in the final inning off big hits from Stoepker and second baseman Andi Chipman, who were two of the games most consistent batters.
It was a remarkable pitching performance from Manion in the first contest. She started the game watching from the dugout, but would eventually go on to pitch five scoreless innings and give the Raiders a chance at a massive comeback that eventually fell short.
“I was just kind of pitching and not really thinking about it,” Manion said. “I was just going at it in my first game and hoping for the best.”
Evans was the pitcher of record for the Raiders and lost her ninth game on the year.
The Raiders finished with 11 hits and 6 errors to the Jayhawks 14 hits and 4 errors.
The Raiders tried to carry their late game offensive serge and strong defense into the second game. Despite Manion having the hot hand, Skudre decided to put Evans back on the mound for the second game.
“With (Manion), that was the first game she’s pitched,” Skudre said. “She had a little bit of tightness in her arm, and so we went back to (Evans) knowing that (Manion) might be able to come back in after she gets her arm warmed back up.”
After a scoreless first inning, the Jayhawks got the first run of the game in the top of the second. The score stayed at 1-0 until the bottom of the fourth when Beld hit a sacrifice fly to deep left field bringing home Stoepker tying the game at one.
In the top of the fifth, MCC scored another run to briefly take the lead but GRCC would respond in the bottom half of the frame. With Manion standing on second, Mackenzie Larsen roped a RBI single down the left field line and advanced to third on a throwing error from the Jayhawks left fielder. Aaron Kietzman followed suit and hit a RBI single to left field of her own giving the Raiders a 3-2 lead.
“Something changed from that first to second game,” Evans said. “I think the intensity was boosted up and I think we came together as one in that second game.”
The intensity carried all the way through the game and in the top of the seventh, the Raiders needed only three outs to secure a victory.
After a leadoff walk, the Jayhawks laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runner to second. With one out and a runner on second, MCC left fielder, Alyssa Slade doubled to deep left center tying the game at three and sending it to extra innings.
A scoreless eighth inning gave way to the ninth where the Jayhawks would put the nail in the Raiders coffin.
MCC scored two runs on three hits and took a 5-3 lead going into the bottom of the ninth. The Raiders needed at least two runs to keep the game going but went quietly going down in order.
Evans pitched all nine innings and was strong throughout, but the Raiders couldn’t secure a victory for her and she picked up her second loss of the day and tenth of the season bringing her record to 1-10.
“(Evans) pitched a heck of a game,” Skudre said. “I was very proud of what she did…especially after what she went through in that first game, when she came through in the second game, I was very proud of how she pitched tonight.”
The Raiders had seven hits and three errors in the game while the Jayhawks racked up 11 hits with four errors.
With the two losses, the Raiders are now 2-10 in conference play and 3-18 overall. With all the weather postponements as of late, the Raiders will have plenty of opportunity to get on the right track.
The Raiders were scheduled to play another doubleheader today when they hit the road to face the Lake Michigan College Red Hawks in Benton Harbor, Michigan.