MARSHALL - At times timid at the plate last year, Marshall batters continued to show their blossoming confidence Monday against the visiting Benson/Hancock Braves.
Falling behind 3-2 after three innings, the Tigers' offense exploded for 10 runs over the next three innings for a 12-6 victory at the Marshall Softball Complex. The Tigers have put a 1-3 start to the season in their rearview mirror and are back to .500 at 4-4 overall after three straight victories in which they've totalled 36 combined runs.
A key stretch in Monday's game was in the bottom of the fourth inning when the top half of Marshall's order strung together five straight two-out singles and turned a 4-2 deficit into a 5-4 lead. Callie Graff, Miranda Fischer and Brooke Louwagie started the inning with base hits and Ashley Stattelman continued the rally with a two RBI single.
Marshall third baseman Amy Welu (15) sets to throw the ball to first base as Tiger shortstop Brooke Louwagie looks on during Marshall’s non-conference game against Benson Monday at the Marshall Softball Complex.
After leaving five runners on base over the first three innings, the Tigers managed to capitalize on their opportunities as they adjusted to starting pitcher Kayla Jones.
"We had some good at-bats all around today, we were very happy with them," Marshall assistant Bessie Peterson said. "They were able to stay back on pitches that they needed to wait for. That's something they struggled with in the past but they made good adjustments tonight and did a great job."
The Tigers chased Jones out of the game in the fourth and then scored four more runs in the fifth off of Addie Forbord, who lasted just 1 1/3 innings. Graff and Stattelman each had RBI base hits in the inning.
Benson 102 102 0-6 9 5
Marshall 011 343 X-12 11 3
B-Kayla Jones, Addie Forbord (4), Krista Motzko (6). M-Miranda Fischer. WP-Fischer. LP-Jones. 2B: B-Gabi Doscher, Jones 2. HR: B-Jones.
Marshall didn't have to make any contact to score three runs in the sixth inning, when the Tigers effectively sealed the game. Braves reliever Krista Motzko walked three batters, hit a batter and her team had a fielding error, all of which allowed the Tigers to score three runs on no hits in the inning and grab a 12-6 lead.
The Tigers tallied 11 hits for the game. Graff led the way, going 3-for-4 with a walk and three runs scored. Fischer also scored three runs and had two hits and a walk. Louwagie continued the strong day for the top of the order with a pair of hits, a walk and a run scored.
The Tigers are now averaging nine runs per game on the season, more than doubling their average of 4.2 runs per game from last year.
"We're very pleased with the way our hitting has been developing overall," Peterson said. "Last season we really struggled to make adjustments on pitchers, pitching speed and pitching accuracy was very tough for them to judge so our bats were kind of quiet last year. But these girls are a lot more confident and a lot better able to make that adjustment. They really have that vision with their eyes and hands together and we get a lot of good contact out of them."
Marshall also got a solid pitching performance from Fischer. She bounced back from giving up a two-run homer to Jones in the third inning to finish with 10 strikeouts for the game. She gave up nine hits in the game and only walked one batter.
"We were very happy to see that when we came back from that (home run), she got right back into it and was very confident as a pitcher. We were very proud of her, too," Peterson said.
Monday marked the start of a very busy week for the Tigers in which they will play eight games total. The action continues today with a Southwest Conference doubleheader at Worthington.