EUREKA – Saturday continued this week's pattern of close and captivating softball games at Sweitzer Field.
And, just like with Wednesday's pair of showdowns with Fontbonne, Eureka ended up with a win and a loss.
The Red Devils put together a bomb-filled seventh-inning rally to force extra innings against Greenville, and scored the first run of the eighth to claim an 8-7 victory in Game 1.
Then, in Game 2, they put the winning run at the plate in a would-be seventh-inning rally that never came together and lost 6-4.
The Red Devils – now clear players in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference playoff race — are 8-4 on the year and 6-2 in SLIAC play.
Greenville's loss in Game 1 was the team's first in SLIAC play this season. With the split, the Panthers improved to 13-5 and 7-1.
Game 1: Eureka 8, Greenville 7 (8 inn.)
The Panthers held a 7-3 lead over the Red Devils going into the bottom of the seventh inning, but for the second time this week, the women in maroon and gold showed they could answer under pressure.
Payne kicked it off with a solo shot to center with one out. After Sydney Shubert (Canton, Ill./Canton) reached on a bunt single, Osborn knocked a two-run dinger to make to make it a one-run game.
Then, two batters later, Ledbetter delivered a game-tying blast to center field — her second homer of the game. She previously produced a game-tying two-run shot in the second inning.
With her fifth home run of the season coming in the 11th game, Ledbetter is on pace to shatter EC's single-season home run record of 10, set by assistant coach Kelli Dunne in 2013.
EC pitcher Erin Smith retired the side with a strikeout and a pair of fly-outs in the top of the eighth, paving the way for the Red Devils to seal it in the bottom half.
Smith got the win, improving to 5-2 after pitching all eight innings and limiting the Panthers to four earned runs on 11 hits and striking out five without walking a batter.
Payne, Shubert and Ledbetter and Allison Cagley (Fairbury, Ill./Prairie Central) all had two hits, and Cagley provided a double.
Game 2: Greenville 6, Eureka 4
After capitalizing on every opportunity it needed down the stretch to get the win in Game 1, EC left some runs on the board in Game 2.
The Red Devils scored four runs on six hits and left seven on base.
Payne went 2-for-3 with a double, a walk and a pair of runs scored. Osborn notched a pair of RBIs – the first on a groundout that scored Payne in the first and the second on a single in the fifth. Greenville conceded two runs on back-to-back errors following the latter play, giving EC a 4-3 lead.
However, the Panthers got one back in the sixth and added two more on a homer by Beth Mersinger in the seventh to make it 6-4.
Payne led off EC's last chance with a double and Shubert walked to put the game-tying run on base, but Osborn, Cagley and Ledbetter were all retired in order to end the threat.
Barring bad weather, the Red Devils are set to return to action on Sunday with a home doubleheader against Rose-Hulman at noon.