ELSAH, Ill. – The Eureka softball team entered Friday night knowing it couldn't slip up.
To keep pace in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference playoff race, the Red Devils had to take both games, and they did exactly that, rolling to a 14-4, 19-2 sweep over Principia on the road.
The Red Devils (22-6, 12-4 in SLIAC play) now only have one hurdle – or two, rather – to clear to punch their ticket to the SLIAC tournament. Two pivotal games against league leader Spalding await them on Sunday at Sweitzer Field.
The result of that series will decide if they can clinch a share of the conference, claim a tourney bid or fall out of the playoff picture entirely. First pitch is at noon.
Game 1: Eureka 14, Principia 4
Eureka didn't get off to a red-hot start on Friday. The maroon and gold was deadlocked with the home team at two runs apiece after the first inning and were tied again at four runs apiece after the third.
However, the Red Devils took the lead for the last time by scoring an unearned run in the fourth, and a two-run double by Morgan Ledbetter (Hanna City, Ill./Elmwood) extended the advantage to three. They then tacked on another run in the fifth off a sac fly RBI by Alisyn Showalter (Havana, Ill./Havana) before piecing together a six-run rally on five hits and three Principia errors in the seventh.
As a team, EC posted 17 hits. Sydney Shubert (Canton, Ill./Canton) collected four and scored four runs in five at-bats for the Red Devils. Ledbetter went 3-for-5 with two doubles and four RBIs.
Morgan Osborn (Washington, Ill./Washington), Allison Cagley (Fairbury, Ill./Prairie Central), Adrianna Zeman (La Salle, Ill./Prairie Central) and Faith Bachtold (Fairbury, Ill./Prairie Central) all had two hits apiece. Osborn and Bachtold each contributed a double.
Pitcher Erin Smith (Dunlap, Ill./Dunlap) clinched another complete-game for the Red Devils, only allowing one earned run on five hits and one walk in seven innings. She struck out six while improving to 12-3 on the season.
Game 2: Eureka 19, Principia 2 (5 innings)
The Red Devils racked up 15 runs on 13 hits in the third inning to put a one-run game completely out of hand in Game 2.
By the time it was all over, the visitors had amassed 23 hits and scored 19 times.
Leadoff hitter Raelyn Payne (Lexington, Ill./Lexington) led the way, going 5-for-5 with a home run, a double, four RBIs and four runs scored. The dinger was her seventh of the season, breaking Smith's 2017 program record for homers by a freshman in a single season.
Ledbetter, who set EC's single-season home run record with her 11th jack of the spring earlier this week, delivered her 12th in that third inning and went 3-for-4 in the nightcap. Both Ledbetter and Payne's homers were three-run shots.
Zeman went 3-for-4 with two doubles, while Osborn went 3-for-4 with one. Bachtold, Showalter and Klaire Wilmot (La Salle, Ill./La Salle-Peru) each contributed an extra-base hit as well. Shubert; Osborn, Cagley and Zeman all had three hits.
Sidney Wightman (Waterloo, Ill./Gibault Catholic) was the winner in the circle for the Red Devils. The freshman limited the home team to two runs on six hits and one walk while striking out three. She is now 9-2 in her freshman season.