Buies Creek, N.C. - With two strikes and two outs in the seventh inning of a scoreless game, freshman outfielder Tess Apke (Mt. Lebanon, Pa. / Mt. Lebanon), seeing action in a collegiate contest for the first time, crushed a high home run to deep left field to give the Robert Morris University softball team a thrilling 1-0 victory over Ohio Saturday afternoon in its final game at Campbell's Hampton Inn Invitational at the Eakes Athletic Complex.
RMU had dropped its opening contest Saturday morning as it fell to St Joseph's, 2-0. Nonetheless, the Colonials were still just one of two teams in the tournament to post a 3-1 mark on the weekend.
Freshman Nicole Sleith (Smithton, Pa. / Yough) tallied the first shutout of her young career against the Bobcats as she allowed just three hits, all singles, while registering five strikeouts against just one walk. With the performance, Sleith moved to 3-0 for the Colonials as she has tallied a win in each of her collegiate appearances thus far.
Sleith was subsequently named the tournament's Most Outstanding Perfomer at the conclusion of Saturday's play and was one of three Colonials to earn spots on the All-Tournament Team. She was joined by Apke and senior Sarah Capp (McKees Rocks, Pa. / Montour) who produced a .300 average and a .364 on-base percentage on the weekend.
The Colonials also got a very strong effort in the circle in their opening game as sophomore Geena Badolato (Mt. Lebanon, Pa. / Mt. Lebanon) went the distance but was the tough-luck loser. She allowed just four hits and one earned run in seven innings while allowing a single walk and no hit-batters.
Badolato and Sleith's efforts helped Robert Morris allow just five combined runs in its first four games, which is the lowest such total allowed in the opening four games of a season by RMU in the 22 years that head coach Craig Coleman, M.D., has been at the helm. The 3-1 start also marks the sixth such time RMU has won at least three of its first four games of a season during the Coleman era.
Senior Jaci Timko (Houston, Pa. / Chartiers Houston) tallied hits in both games Saturday to notch the 153rd and 154th hits of her career, drawing her closer to the career top 10 in that category at RMU.
In the opener against the Hawks, Badolato worked around a two-out walk in the first before the Colonials looked to have a chance in the home half of the second.
Capp worked a leadoff walk and, after senior Katrina Gallagher (Canonsburg, Pa. / Canon McMillan) was inserted as a pinch-runner, sophomore Chelsea Siar (Glenshaw, Pa. / Shaler Area) followed with a successful sacrifice. Gallagher took third on a groundout but RMU could not plate her as the inning ended with a seven-pitch strikeout.
St. Joseph's moved ahead in the third as a Colonial miscue, a groundout and a double combined to give the Hawks a 1-0 edge. Badolato was able to escape further damage as she stranded a runner in scoring position by inducing a comebacker for the third out.
The Hawks looked to add on in the fourth as they moved a runner to second with one out, but Badolato held her ground as she got a looking strikeout and a flyout to end the threat.
Timko knocked a one-out single in the fourth, but Hawks' ace Erin Gallagher made sure that Robert Morris could not advance her any further.
After each side had a 1-2-3 fifth, the Hawks drilled a solo homer with two outs in the sixth to add an insurance run.
The two runs proved to be enough as the Colonials were unable to generate much offensively over the final two frames and suffered their first loss of the season.
In its second game of the day, Gallagher worked a one-out walk in the first, but Ohio was able to work around it.
The Bobcats got an infield single to start the home half, but Sleith was able to retire each of the next three in order to send it to the second.
Both pitchers worked 1-2-3 second innings, and then the eventual hero Apke started the third with a walk. She moved to second with one out, but a strikeout and a flyout left her stranded in scoring position.
The home half of the third was somewhat similar as the Bobcats moved a runner to second with one out, but Sleith produced a groundout and an inning-ending strikeout.
Timko singled in the fourth with one out and moved to second on a groundout. Siar then walked to put two runners aboard for RMU, but an eight-pitch at bat ended in a flyout.
Sleith worked around her lone walk of the game in the fourth before sophomore catcher Chelsea Evans (Beaver Falls, Pa. / Riverside) notched a one-out single in the fifth but it was to no avail.
Ohio led off the bottom of the fifth with a single, but Sleith retired each of the next three hitters to keep the game scoreless.
A two-out single by Capp in the sixth amounted to no runs for RMU, and then the Bobcats were sent down in order in the home half.
After each of the first two Colonials were retired in the seventh, Apke strode to the plate. She fell down in the count at a ball and two strikes but then crushed the next offering well over the fence to finally break the deadlock.
Ohio started well in the seventh as it knocked a single up the middle. However, just as she did Friday when protecting a one-run lead in the seventh, Sleith then bore down after allowing the leadoff baserunner to reach. After Evans snagged a popup, Sleith recorded consecutive swinging strikeouts on just seven combined pitches to register her third win.
With its first tournament in the books, RMU will resume action next weekend as it travels to Woodstock, Ga. for the 11-team Phyllis Rafter Memorial. The Colonials will face four teams for the first time in program history, including 2011 NCAA Tournament participant Georgia State.
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