EUREKA — There was no lack of drama or tension at Sweitzer Field on Wednesday afternoon — and it all ended it with an eight-run EC comeback.
With Fontbonne in town, the Eureka softball team battled to a split so wild that the games had to be decided by an extra inning and a walk-off wild pitch, respectively.
After falling one run short in a 9-8, eighth-inning loss in the opener, the Red Devils produced a thrilling, eight-run rally in Game 2 to wrest a 10-9 victory away from the Griffins.
Down 9-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning, EC used six hits, two untimely Fontbonne errors, a hit batsmen and a walk to set the stage for junior Morgan Osborn (Washington, Ill./Washington) to race down the third-base line and slide into home plate after a wild pitch.
It was Osborn who both started off EC's last stand with a leadoff double and later delivered the game-tying, three-run double. It was only fitting that she scored the winning run, too.
"I'm ecstatic," Osborn said. "My team, time and time again this season, has proven that we don't give up. No matter how much we're down, no matter what the innings are, we don't give up."
With the win, Eureka improved to 7-3 on the season and 5-1 in St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference action. Fontbonne fell to 7-15 and 5-3 in league play.
Fontbonne was picked to finish fourth in the SLIAC preseason poll, while Eureka – which has finished just outside the top four the past two years – was voted sixth.
"We've always had a big rivalry with Fontbonne," Osborn said. "I know we came into this hoping for a sweep, but splitting with them is a huge win for us.
"We outhit them in the first game and came back in the second game and won, so."
Eureka tallied 30 hits on the day, splitting 15 between each game.
In the second game, however, it took the Red Devils a quite while to starting stringing them together at the right time.
Fontbonne got off to a quick start, notching a pair of runs off three hits in a bumpy first inning for EC starting pitcher Sidney Wightman (Waterloo, Ill./Gibault Catholic). But once that damage was done, the freshman settled in, retired nine batters in a row and went three full innings without giving up a hit.
In the fifth, though, the Griffins rallied back with a six-run frame that included a three-run dinger by Daisy Watkins to make it 8-1. It also prompted an EC pitching change, as freshman Alisyn Showalter (Havana, Ill./Havana) was called to make her pitching debut for the Red Devils. She conceded a double and a walk, but ultimately got out of the inning on a fly to center.
The Red Devils scored their first run of the game in the fourth on an RBI single by Raelyn Payne (Lexington, Ill./Lexington) and tacked on a second in the fifth on an RBI triple by Adrianna Zeman (La-Salle, Ill./La-Salle-Peru).
The Griffins added a ninth and final run in the top of the seventh on a solo blast by Melanie Russo to give the visitors a seven-run lead. It seemed imposing at the time, but it wasn't enough.
Osborn's leadoff double was the first of five straight hits for the Red Devils. Allison Cagely (Fairbury, Ill./Prairie Central) and Morgan Ledbetter (Hanna City, Ill./Elmwood) both singled to load the bases. Then, Zeman drove in two with a single to left and Klaire Wilmot (La Salle, Ill./La Salle-Peru) singled up the middle to keep it going.
Faith Bachtold (Fairbury, Ill./Prairie Central) reached on a fielder's choice that scored another run. A strikeout later, Fonntbonne's first error of the inning made it 9-6 and its second brought Osborn to the plate for the second time of the inning.
"I was just telling myself that I was the winning run," Osborn said. "Like, I needed to find a way for the girls in front of me and me to score for us to win the game.
"Six-nine with two outs, I just wanted to put the ball in play and make something happen."
She did, and after Cagely was hit by a pitch, Ledbetter drew a walk and Zeman took a strike, Diamond Thomas' pitch got away from her, flying by the catcher and bouncing away from the plate.
Osborn said that EC coach Debi Neff saw it coming and had her in position.
"Neff called that," she said. "She looked at me and said 'I think she's due for a wild pitch,' so on that second pitch, when she threw it away, I was ready for it."
Osborn and Payne each collected three hits for Eureka, while Zeman, Wilmot and Bachtold added two apiece. Showalter recorded the first win of her career, limiting the Griffins to one run on two hits in 2 1/3 innings pitched.
Unlike the come-from-behind conclusion of the series, Game 1 was a dead-even, back-and-forth affair. Each team traded runs and rallies until it was all knotted at seven runs apiece after seven innings.
In the eighth, Fontbonne parlayed three runs and two EC errors into three runs, and in the bottom half, EC was only able to counter with two.
Ledbetter went 4-for-4 with a home run, three RBIs and two go-ahead hits in a losing effort. Sydney Shubert (Canton, Ill./Canton), Osborn, Zeman and Wilmot chalked up three hits apiece; Cagley, Zeman and Wilmot all doubled.
On Thursday, the Red Devils will turn around and play two at Lincoln at 2 p.m. Their next conference challenge comes Saturday when they welcome Greenville to Sweitzer Field for a noon doubleheader.