Offense powers Beavers to sweep at Manchester
April 16, 2014
NORTH MANCHESTER, Ind. - The Bluffton University softball team closed in on its eighth straight Heartland Conference tournament berth when it swept Manchester on Tuesday, April 16, 2014. Manchester, the 2013 regular season HCAC champion and also the team that has knocked Bluffton out of the HCAC tournament the past two seasons will need to sweep Rose-Hulman and get help if it is to return to the annual four-team gathering in a little over two weeks. Bluffton improved to 20-10 overall and 10-4 in the Heartland Conference, while Manchester fell to 9-17 and 6-8 in the HCAC.
The two teams traded solo runs in the second and third innings before a five-run top of the fourth made the score 7-2. Walks to Ashley Knippen (Wapakoneta) and Ariana Muffo (New Athens, Ill.) around a Katie Musgrave (Doylestown/Chippewa) infield single loaded the sacks for Brittany Baker (Springboro) who singled to third for the 3-2 lead. Jess Kuzara (Flat Rock, Mich./Huron) collected her second RBI of the game when she was hit by a pitch. Emily Kolezynski (Strongsville) smacked a two-run single to left and Jo Bondra (Highland Heights/Mayfield) capped the scoring with a sacrifice fly to center which sent Kuzara scurrying for home.
Muffo's RBI two-bagger in the fifth and her sacrifice fly in the seventh proved to be crucial insurance tallies as the home team put two runs on the board in both frames. The Spartans left two runners on in the seventh as Bluffton held them off for the 9-6 victory.
Chloe Shell (Covington) improved to 9-5 after allowing six runs, four earned, on 13 hits in her complete-game effort. The junior fanned five and did not issue a free pass.
Knippen was 2-of-2 with two walks and three runs scored. Muffo drove in two while Baker scored twice as five Beavers finished with five hits in the lidlifter.
Bluffton jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the second inning of game two thanks to three hits, a walk and two of Manchester's seven errors in the nightcap. Shell plated Knippen with a single to right center before Kuzara delivered the big blow, a three-run bomb to center. Jo Bondra made it 5-0 with a base hit that picked up Kolezynski.
The Spartans made a game of it with three runs in the sixth, but Bluffton responded heartily an inning later. Three hits and three more Manchester miscues added up to a 10-4 Bluffton win as Kolezynski worked around a leadoff walk in the bottom of the frame.
Emily Scupholm (Cuyahoga Falls/Our Lady of the Elms) continued to impress in the circle, improving to 7-1 on the season after allowing three runs on six hits in 5.1 innings of work. She struck out four and walked a pair of Spartans. Kolezynski secured the final five outs for a Bluffton team that can smell a Heartland Conference tournament berth.
Knippen scored three times and Kuzara drove in three runs. Kolezynski finished with two safeties and Baker crossed the dish twice.
Bluffton returns to action this weekend with a pair of home doubleheaders. The Beavers host Madonna at 3:30 p.m. on Good Friday before Heartland Conference rival Hanover comes to town on Saturday (1 p.m.) when Bluffton celebrates Parents Day.