Once upon a time, a sportswriter quipped the PSU Softball Complex should be renamed the PSU Home Run Complex.
That became apparent in the first inning of the Pittsburg State home opener against Northeastern State (Okla).
With two on and two outs, Katelyn Birchfield smashed a three-run home run off the new scoreboard in left and Kreslee Ketcham followed that up with a solo blast into the trees in center, giving Pitt State a 4-0 advantage Friday afternoon en route to a 7-0 win.
In the second game, Pitt State claimed a conference-opening sweep with a 9-1 run-rule win as the Gorillas broke open a close game with two runs in the fourth and five in the fifth.
“We knew coming into the season that we needed to pitch better and we needed to play better defense,” Pitt State head coach Elizabeth Economon said. “We knew the hitting would come. We’re pretty consistent with that. We’re still trying to hit 1-9, which is the big push for the offense, not to be spotty throughout the lineup but make it potent all the way through. . . . Pitching, they’re bringing it, it’s kind of nice.”
In the first game, Northeastern State would have liked any hit or anything offensively against Pitt State freshman starter Kyndel Shelburn, who continued her stellar pitching with 5.1 innings of perfect ball. The RiverHawks managed only two hits on the Wichita native and struck out an unlucky 13 times, good for the fourth-best mark in school history for Shelburn.
Shelburn improved to 5-0 with a 1.65 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 42.1 innings. She owns all three Pitt State shutouts.
“We are moving in the right direction,” Economon said. “She’s got some interesting movement, we’ll say that. She’s tough to hit. She’s unpredictable, which is good. The hitters in the box have not any idea what’s happening so it works in our advantage, takes pressure off the defense and lets the offense have its fun.”
Pitt State finished with four home runs the first game — a solo shot from Molly Stiens in the fourth and a two-run blast from Tiffany Brown in the fifth concluded the long ball assault. The Gorillas scored seven runs on just six hits.
“We’re obviously happy with those,” Economon said. “We would like better at-bats. I thought we struggled a little bit having consistency in pitch selection. When we did hit it, we hit it well so that was nice. Throughout the entire seven innings, we need to have more consistent at-bats. I think we made a big adjustment toward that in the second game.”
Pitt State homered twice more in the second game, a two-run shot by relief pitcher Samantha Grove and a three-run blast by Stiens, and finished with 13 hits on lone Northeastern State pitcher Shelby Enloe.
Page 2 of 2 - The RiverHawks had their opportunities early in the game but could only push across a single run in the third inning, their only score of the day.
“We started our other freshman (Kylie Harpst) to begin the game and she did OK,” Economon said. “She’s struggling to find her groove but I think she’ll be fine. We’re not worried. Then, Sam Grove came in and we have her coming back from an injury last year. It’s a luxury to have her. She offers a different perspective, as well. We’ve got a lot of options and then Sam can help herself at the plate.”
Kylie Harpst earned the win and Grove the save, coming in with two innings of hitless relief and supporting herself at the plate with a two-run homer.
Pitt State won its eighth straight game and improves to 12-4, 2-0 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association.
The Gorillas host nationally-ranked Central Oklahoma (No. 9) at 1 p.m. today, another MIAA doubleheader.
The Bronchos split a Friday doubleheader with Missouri Southern, winning the first game 7-0 and losing the second 11-3 in five innings. Central Oklahoma owns a 15-5, 1-1 MIAA record.