Sims, O’Brien Homer to Help Lead UMKC to Split with GCU
The UMKC softball team picked up a split in a doubleheader with Grand Canyon University on the opening day of Western Athletic Conference play, falling 4-2 in game one before using home runs from sophomore Ashlin O’Brien and freshman Bri Sims to power their way to a 9-7 victory in game two on Friday, April 2.
The ‘Roos (9-17, 1-1 WAC) and Grand Canyon (26-11, 1-1 WAC) played to a stalemate through the first three-and-a-half frames in game one, as sophomore pitcher Amber Grove (5-8) matched the WAC’s leader in a number of pitching categories in GCU’s Taylor Nowlin to hang zeros.
Grove’s dominance wore off a bit in the bottom of the fourth inning, as she allowed two runs on two hits to give the Lopes a 2-0 lead.
Another round of zeros in the run column in inning five brought the ‘Roos to the plate down two runs in the sixth, needing an answer quick, and that is just what they found, as sophomore Kendra Leach (1-for-4) doubled to center field to bring in freshman Kameron Fisher and cut into the GCU lead.
A fundamental sacrifice bunt from O’Brien (1-for-3) moved Leach to third, and Sims (1-for-3) did the damage needed to tie up the ballgame with a single up the middle.
The Lopes answered back for two in the bottom half of the inning to make the score 4-2, and despite the ‘Roos getting runners to second and third with no outs in the top of the seventh, GCU closed out the game to take game one of the doubleheader.
The ‘Roos didn’t waste any time in game two and took a four run lead after the first half-inning of play. The first two runs came thanks to a leadoff walk from senior Brooke Parker (0-for-4) and O’Brien’s (2-for-4) two-run shot.
Parker’s walk marked her 13th-straight game of reaching base safely, and the homer from O’Brien was her second of the year.
Senior Katie Kelley (2-for-4) followed O’Brien with a single, and a sacrifice bunt and a bunt-single moved her to third base, where Sims (1-for-3) drove her home with a groundout to second base, before the ‘Roos added their fourth run of the inning thanks to a GCU error.
Kelley (3-8) worked a clean first inning in the circle, but two defensive errors in the second led to two unearned runs for GCU, cutting the UMKC lead in half.
Freshman Morgan Byrn (0-for-3) scored an unearned run in the fourth, but a GCU home run in the bottom half of the inning neutralized the sting, and UMKC clung to a two-run lead with two innings to play.
GCU’s home run in the inning marked the first earned run Kelley had given up since March 10, spanning nine appearances.
Kelley led off the fifth inning with her second hit of the game, a single to right field, and Sims drove her home again, this time driving herself home as well with a round-tripper, her third long-ball of the season, giving the ‘Roos a 7-3 lead.
The Lopes wouldn’t let UMKC run away with it, and they added two runs of their own to answer in the bottom half of the fifth with another homer off Kelley, bringing the score to 7-5.
Junior Abby Warkentine (1-for-3) led off the sixth with her first double of the season, and Parker drover her in to give UMKC a three-run lead with an inning-and-a-half to play.
Junior Alex Gale (0-for-2) worked a bases-loaded walk to score another run for good measure, and the Lopes would threaten in the bottom of the seventh, but UMKC held them off to pick up the important road conference win.
UMKC and GCU will square off in the rubber match on Saturday, April 2 with first pitch scheduled for 8 p.m. CST. The series finale will be available to stream live on the WAC Digital Network via WACSports.com/Live.
– 2015-16 UMKC Softball –