By Brad Fauber
WINCHESTER -- The two games of Shenandoah University's softball doubleheader against visiting Mary Washington on Wednesday couldn't have been much more different, and yet the outcome of each contest was ultimately the same.
The Hornets came out on top in both games as Shenandoah captured the sweep over the Eagles, which began with a 2-1 victory in the opening game in what was largely a pitcher's duel throughout.
Both teams made up for the lack of offense in the nightcap, as Shenandoah escaped with a 12-11 win in a game that featured five lead changes and 24 combined hits.
The Hornets trailed by two or more runs three different times in the second game, but Shenandoah head coach Marlena Kotynski and the rest of the Hornets didn't seem to be fazed by the deficits.
"It's weird, because as a coach I would tend to sometimes get really nervous in those situations, but with the team I have now, with how hard they've worked at hitting and everything, I didn't have any nervous feelings," Kotynski said. "I knew whether we were down by three runs or whatever, that's nothing for us. They've worked extremely hard and I know they're up for the challenge."
Mary Washington (2-3) quickly doubled its first-game output with a pair of runs in the first inning of the nightcap, as sophomore catcher Emily Nykorchuk smacked a two-RBI double to right field to put the Eagles up 2-0.
Shenandoah responded with a run in the bottom of the first, as junior Brittany Guepe -- who led off the inning with an infield single and advanced to third on a wild pitch and a sacrifice bunt -- scored on a wild pitch to Heather Sink.
The Hornets (3-1) scored two more runs in the second on an RBI single by sophomore Maggie Waters to take a 3-2 lead after two frames.
"It's always important to get back as quick as you can so you don't feel like you're fighting from behind all the time. I try to tell them I don't care what the scoreboard says, we should always be putting up runs," Kotynski said. "Whether we're down by 10 runs or we're up by 10 runs, we should be putting up runs every inning."
Mary Washington countered with three runs in the top of the fourth to take a 5-3 lead, but Shenandoah answered with a five-run outburst in the bottom of the inning.
Hornets senior Lauren McCabe tied the game at 5-all with a two-RBI double down the left-field line, and Guepe sent a single back through the hole at shortstop to score McCabe and reclaim the lead for Shenandoah. The Hornets tacked on two more runs on a Morgan Coble (2 for 4, three RBIs) single and an Eagles throwing error.
"This team, we're amazing at coming back and we work really well together," said Guepe, who finished 3 for 5 with one RBI and one run scored. "We're kind of an underdog kind of team. We're very good at coming back when it doesn't seem good. We battle very well."
Mary Washington had a big inning of its own in the fifth, as the Eagles scored six runs to take an 11-8 lead, but the Hornets responded once again to tie the game in the bottom half of the fifth.
"We felt like we gave away two games," Eagles coach Dee Conway said. "Shenandoah, they hit the ball, they did good things -- but we had a lot of opportunities that we blew."
The Hornets finally took the lead for good in the sixth when junior Erika Kondzielawa came on as a pinch-hitter and ripped a double to left field that scored Kimberly Brady (3 for 4, four runs scored).
Freshman pitcher Megan Tripp recorded her first career victory in the nightcap. Tripp started the game, was removed in the fourth inning, and re-entered the game at pitcher in the fifth.
In the opening game of the doubleheader, neither offense found much success, as both pitchers were effective. Shenandoah was able to break a 1-1 tie in the fourth inning when senior catcher Denise Mitchell blasted a solo home run over the left-field fence, and that was enough for Hornets pitcher Stephanie Cameron (2-0).
"It was a bit of a pitcher's duel. Their pitcher has a pretty good rise ball and our pitcher was moving the ball very well," Kotynski said. "It was a little bit harder for the hitters to come around in the first game. But the home run was a great way to put us on top."
"I felt pretty good that [Cameron] was going to shut it down. I was thinking of making a pitching change just because she had pitched to so many batters, but she finished strong."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org