Urbana University extended the longest winning streak in the country in NCAA Division II softball on Friday afternoon, but then the Blue Knights saw that streak snapped in the nightcap by the visiting Hilltoppers from West Liberty University.
A 2-1 walk-off win in the home opener stretched Urbana's school-record winning streak to 16 games before the Toppers toppled the streak with a 9-1 victory in Game 2.
At 10-1, the Blue Knights are still off to the best start in program history. However, their loss leaves California University of Pennsylvania as the lone undefeated team in D-II this season.
After Urbana's last two doubleheaders were called due to inclement weather, the Blue Knights were eager to take the frozen field on Friday. Temperatures in the 30’s couldn't cool off the home team's bats. After leaving the bases loaded in the first, the Blue Knights broke through in the second inning. Senior leadoff hitter Brooke Shultz smashed a triple over the Toppers' left fielder, scoring starting pitcher Haley Jo Kolmerten (pictured) from second base.
Kolmerten kept the Toppers in check until a two-out solo home run by Julianne Wanda ended the junior's perfect game in the fifth inning. Kolmerten had retired 14 straight hitters, 8 via strikeout, until Wanda's blast tied the game at a run apiece.
Urbana's offense put runners in scoring position in each of the first five innings, but Shultz's triple was the home team's only base hit in those spots until the bottom of the seventh. Senior shortstop Heather Hakola led off the inning with a single to center. After failing to get down a sacrifice bunt, freshman Morgan Haer played the hero, driving a game-winning two-strike double to the fence in dead center field. Hakola slid into home as the Blue Knights walked off with their 16th straight win.
Kolmerten went the distance on the mound to earn her team-leading sixth win. She allowed 2 hits and struck out 10 without allowing a free pass.
West Liberty surprised the Blue Knights in the fourth inning of Game 2. In a scoreless battle, the visitors strung together a single and a double to score the first run of the season off junior starting pitcher Lauren Anderson. The Toppers tacked on a second run in the inning after a Hakola throwing error.
Hakola atoned for the error with a leadoff double and run in the bottom of the fourth. Freshman Katelyn Edwards drove her in with a sac fly to right field to cut the deficit in half, but it was as close as the home team would get down the stretch. The Toppers pushed across a pair of runs in the fifth and sixth innings and three more in the seventh to take a 9-1 lead. The runs in the sixth and seventh innings were the first of the year against freshman reliever Cortney Moore. West Liberty's 9 runs were three more than Urbana allowed in the first 10 games combined.
The Toppers improved to 7-15 with the split. Urbana (10-1) opens conference play on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. when G-MAC foe Ursuline College comes to town for a doubleheader.
Piatt Pitches a Gem in G-MAC Opener
Urbana University senior starting pitcher Tom Piatt made a statement in the Blue Knights' Great Midwest Athletic Conference opener on Friday night. In near-freezing conditions, Urbana's right-handed ace went the distance on the road in a 6-0 shutout of rival Cedarville University.
Piatt (4-1) scattered three hits and three walks over nine innings, striking out 12 Yellow Jackets to earn the most impressive win of his four-year career. The Blue Knights broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the sixth inning. Taylor Nehls led off the inning with a single. He moved to second on Greg Liming's walk and advanced to third on a failed pick-off attempt. That set the stage for junior catcher Robert Tavone Jr. who singled to left to score Nehls. Liming later scored on Colt Turley's infield single. Turley led both teams with 3 hits on the night.
The two runs were enough for Piatt, but the Blue Knights tacked on three more in the seventh and another insurance run in the eighth. Tavone Jr. drove in another run, as did Aaron Bingham.
Urbana improves to 9-6 overall with the win and 1-0 in the conference. Cedarville slips to 8-5 and 0-1 in the G-MAC. These same two teams will tangle twice more on Saturday. The noon start time has been pushed back to 2:00 p.m.