Outfielder Lexi White hit a three-run home run and senior left-hander pitcher Bridgette Rainey threw five shutdown innings as softball mercyed Eastern Michigan, 9-1, Tuesday afternoon at Secchia Softball Stadium. The game was ended after four and half innings due to the eight-run lead.
The Spartans got it going early, with five runs in the first inning. The big blow came courtesy of White. The fastball the junior deposited over the center field fence was her first home run of this season after hitting nine last season.
“Offensively, I haven’t been able to be there for my team that much this year,” White said. “I’ve been struggling. I was just looking to move the runners, and just set the tone during the first inning. I just saw a pitch in the zone and I went for it. It paid off, I guess.”
When head coach Jacquie Joseph was told White’s home run today was her first of the season, she refused to believe it until presented with a stat sheet.
“I had to really look. I thought she did so good in general, I thought she looked great,” Joseph said. “If Lexi White can get feeling good about herself, that’s gonna go a long way for us. She’s another key hitter for us that we had last year that hasn’t been there for us. If she gets hot, that would be huge for us.”
Rainey, who struggled with command in her last start this past weekend against Ohio State, was dominant Tuesday, striking out seven and only walking two Eagles batters. Rainey dismissed the idea there could be any carryover from her weekend struggle.
“Is Sunday in my mind? Absolutely not, we’re moving forward," Rainey said. "We just keep on going to the next game, and it’s inning by inning. Sunday is not any more in my mind, at all.”
Joseph said Rainey’s performance was key to the victory.
“It all starts in the pitching circle,” she said. “If you pitch it, it sets a tone for everything. It starts with, we play defense and pitch it really well. And then, we go on offense and score five. That sets the tone for everything. It gets them on their heels, and it gets us loosened up.”
Junior outfielder Ebonee Echols got on base three times and was pleased with her performance.
“I think that’s one of my jobs in the lineup is to get on base for the bigger girls to hit me in, run a little bit," Echols said. "If they give me a pitch to hit, I’m gonna take advantage of it.”
Joseph noted the Spartan offense's hot start was nice, but said she felt the three-run second inning was perhaps more important.
“We have scored in the first inning more this year than I can ever remember in my career,” she said. “So, scoring first is always a goal of mine. We just haven’t always finished. We score first a lot, we have to finish. We kept stepping on their necks today.”
The games come hot and heavy for the Spartans. Today was their first of five games in a seven-day period, due to rainouts earlier in the season. They’re back at it tomorrow against Central Michigan at 4 p.m. Rainey said she was excited to get back out there, noting gameday is always better than a practice day.
Predictably, the headaches of all those games makes Joseph a bit less pleased than her players.
“It’s five games in a week. It’s midweek, and the kids have school,” she said. “It’s tough. But given where we live, that’s the nature of the beast. You’ve gotta get‘em in in April. Is it easy? No.”
Earlier this year, Eastern Michigan announced they were cutting many sports at the end of the school year, including softball. A small ceremony was held postgame thanking the Eagles for their years of spirited competition.
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