The No. 21 SVSU softball team travelled to Ohio for the weekend and split four games against Tiffin and Findlay.
The Cardinals on Saturday lost both games to Tiffin and came back on Sunday with a sweep of Findlay.
The weekend brought the team’s overall record to 27-12, and its GLIAC record of 12-6 is good enough for fourth place.
Sam Willman took the mound in game one Saturday. The senior went 7.1 innings in the 1-0 loss. She struck out six batters, walked eight and only gave up one hit. Tiffin scored on an unearned run.
Willman, who is playing in her final season, has made a great impact on the team, head coach Todd Buckingham said.
“(Willman) is known to us as ‘The Franchise,’” Buckingham said.” When she is on, no one can beat her. She is a true feel-good story, having to overcome two injury-riddled seasons to finally establish herself as one of the top pitchers in our region. She’s done that by just being true to herself, never taking shortcuts and buying into what our staff has planned for her.”
Willman is top-five in the GLIAC in wins with 14, earned run average and strikeouts.
On offense Saturday, the Cardinals recorded four hits but failed to score a run. The team had three separate instances with runners in scoring position.
Junior Anna Conrad had a base hit in her one plate appearance as a pinch-hitter, and junior Evy Lobdell and sophomore Julia Miller both reached base on singles.
Meredith Rousse added two stolen bases to her one hit.
Game two slipped away from the Cards early. Tiffin put up five runs in the top of the first inning. They went on to put up 10 in their second shutout of the day.
Annie Hansen (6-3) got the start for Saginaw Valley. The senior pitched four innings. She gave up six hits and six runs. Conrad came in to pitch relief, giving up five hits and four runs in her two innings.
The team struggled at the plate for most of game two, only registering two hits.
Lobdell got another base hit. Sophomore Aubree Mouthaan hit a double.
Rousse was walked three times and added another stolen base, bringing her season total to 18, third-best in the GLIAC.
“We performed average throughout the day,” Rousse said. “We weren’t hitting, and it eventually caught up to us. [In the] second game, we were struggling to find outs. No one played bad, we just couldn’t stop the bleeding.”
Buckingham is prepared to take the team on a deep run in the GLIAC tournament and hopefully extend that into the NCAA Tournament.
“The key to a deep postseason run is to simply keep on keeping on,” Buckingham said. “The game doesn’t change just because the situation does. Our success this season thus far is a product of the ladies playing as a cohesive unit more often than not. As a whole, our team this year has fully bought into the ‘one pitch warrior’ mentality and been there for each other. If pitching has struggled, the bats have carried us. When the bats struggle, the pitching does the work. That’s the sign of a good time.”
On Sunday against Findlay, the team’s bats made up for Saturday’s lack of production by registering 15 hits and five runs, winning in the 10th inning 5-4.
A three-run seventh inning tied the game up for the Cardinals, and a single by sophomore Becky Corbett scored the winning run.
Willman returned to the mound, winning her 13th game of the season. She pitched all 10 innings, striking out 10 batters and only allowing two earned runs.
Leadoff hitter Madison Burgess was 4-6 with a run scored and an RBI. Rousse hit two doubles and a single. One of her doubles came in the seventh inning and scored two runs to tie the game.
Danielle Hamilton was perfect from the plate, reaching base five times tallying four hits and a walk. She also scored twice.
Courtney Reeves, a junior, had one single and a double. She scored the winning run in the top of the tenth inning.
SVSU won the finale 6-1. Willman was again victorious on the mound for the Cardinals.
The softball team returns home for the rest of the season. The team hosts Cleary University for a doubleheader on Wednesday, April 26, at 3:30 p.m.