Softball splits doubleheader

Erica Hampton

Junior Erica Hampton went 4-for-6 with one double and three RBI Sunday. Photo: Steve Woltmann

The UIC softball team (6-13, 1-1 HL) split its doubleheader with Valparaiso Sunday at DePaul’s Cacciatore Stadium to open Horizon League competition.

The Flames scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth to secure a 10-2 five-inning victory in game one before falling short in their second game to the Crusaders, 6-2.

The Flames will compete in a nonconference game at 4 p.m. today at Northwestern.

“I thought we did a good job executing our game plan in game one,” head coach Michelle Venturella said. “Bridget (Boyle) did a nice job on the mound and Elaine (Heflin) came in and did her job on relief. Our offense put a lot of pressure on them (Valparaiso) all game, which was nice to see.

“In the second game, we didn’t play with the same intensity and all parts of our game could have been stronger. We will continue to work to play at a high level consistently.”

Three Flames hit above .500 on the day, as junior Erica Hampton went 4-for-6 (.667) with one double and three RBI, junior Eleni Polites hit 3-for-5 (.600) with one RBI and one sac-bunt and senior Natalie Hernandez tallied 4-for-8 (.500) with one double and four RBI.

UIC came out swinging from the start of the first game as six of its 10 runs came in the first two innings. While limiting Valpo to just three hits, the Flames had seven different players contribute to their 11 with one or more hits. Hampton went a perfect 3-for-3, while Hernandez and senior Jenna Marsalli picked up two hits apiece.

With bases loaded in the bottom of the first following a pair of singles by Hernandez and Marsalli and a walk by senior Jacki Fletcher, Hampton and Polites hit back-to-back infield singles to score two runs before freshman Kelly Kennedy walked in another.

In the second, bases were loaded again after junior Paige Peterson and Marsalli each singled and Fletcher received her second free base of the game. Sophomore Laura Swan reached on a fielder’s choice that scored one run followed by a Hampton double that brought in two.

After the Crusaders scored two in the top of the fifth, UIC went into the bottom of the inning and Swan led off with a double followed by a single by Hampton, with runners advancing on a sac-bunt by Polites. Kennedy walked for the second time to load the bases for senior Courtney Heeley, who singled to center to bring in one. A double by Hernandez cleared the bases and end the game.

Sophomore Bridget Boyle pitched 4.1 innings, allowed just three hits and two runs to score before freshman Elaine Heflin came in to finish the game and secure her second save of the season. Boyle received the win to improve to 3-3 on the year.

The Flames fell behind early against Valpo in game two and were unable to come up with an answer to the Crusaders’ eight hits and two home runs. Polites posted the first multi-hit game of her career, while Hernandez hit a pair for the second-straight game to contribute to UIC’s seven hits.

Valpo’s Kaitlyn Ranieri led off the game with a home run and hit another in the third inning before the Flames would score their first run. In the bottom of the third, Polites singled to left and then stole second before advancing to third after Heeley reached on an error. Hernandez then singled to bring in Polites and her fourth run of the day.

After the Crusaders broke away in the top of the fifth by scoring three, UIC added to its total in the bottom of the inning following a single by Hernandez and a double by Peterson that drove in its last run of the game. Valpo would add one more in the top of the seventh off a walk, a double and a single.

Sophomore Alice Fitzpatrick received the start and went 4.1 innings and allowed four hits, as Helfin and Boyle came in as relief, with each pitcher striking out one batter.

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