Whitney Davis’ walk-off leads softball

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By Michael Marzzacco | mmarzzacco@radford.edu

Radord softball started the week on the road with a nonconference doubleheader on Wednesday with Appalachian State and a Big South home series with Gardner-Webb.

Over in Boone, North Carolina on Wednesday, Radford dropped game one with a 6-1 margin before taking game two 10-6.  Game one saw senior Becky Mantel set a NCAA Division I record before coming up big in game two by putting the Highlanders ahead for good.  Appalachian State’s five-run sixth inning was the key in taking the game one victory.  With Radford’s win in game two of the doubleheader, it was the fourth straight time the Highlanders won the second game of a doubleheader after dropping the first one.

Mantel reached base on a hit by pitch twice in the loss that gave her an NCAA-record 93 in her career.  The second one came in the fifth inning to break the previous record of 92 that was held by Oklahoma State’s Mariah Gearhart.  Mantel hit a two run homer in game two in the top of the third inning, an inning that led to four runs for the Highlanders to give them a 5-3 lead.  Radford scored two runs in the fifth and sixth innings and scored one last run in the seventh.

The Highlanders had four doubles in the game and had a combined seven on the day which leads the Big South.  Kayla Bishton had three of the doubles which included two in the second game.  She also scored three times and drove in a run.  Whitney Davis went 2 for 3 at the plate with a double, an RBI and two runs scored.  Summer Robinson drove in two runs.

Appalachian State took a 2-0 lead in the second with four singles.  The teams exchanged runs in the second inning with Alex Lang putting Radford on the board with an RBI single.  The Mountaineers responded in the bottom of the inning with a two-out home run.

Radford would take control in their next turn at the plate.  They tied the game without a hit as they took advantage of two walks to begin the inning, then an error followed and the first of two sacrifice flies by Robinson.  Two batters later, Mantel homered over the wall in left-center for the sixth of the season and 29th of her career.  The homer also retied Davis for seventh in program history.

The Mountaineers got an unearned run in the fourth but Radford responded in the fifth with doubles by Bishton, Davis and Marissa Yow that accounted for two runs.

In the sixth inning, Marissa Gagliano got a one-out single, stole second and scored on Bishton’s 12th double of the season.  Bishton reached third on an error and scored on Robinson’s sac fly to right field.  Mantel scored the 10th and final run of the contest as she drew a walk, stole second, and scored on an RBI single through the right side by Hannah Medlam.  Radford finished with 9 hits in the game.

Due to cold weather in the New River Valley with the potential for snow, Radford moved Saturday’s doubleheader against Gardner-Webb to Sunday while game one of the series would start on Friday night.  In that first game, Abby Morrow pithed a two-hitter and the Highlanders scored six runs in their final two innings for their 8-0 win in six innings.

Becky Mantel had a two-run homer, a double and three runs.  Marissa Yow added two hits that included a double.  Hannah Medlam had two RBIs and Jessica Curbiera drove in a run.

Morrow got her fourth shutout of the season and retired the final 16 batters of the night.  It was the third time this season she allowed two or fewer hits in a game.  She struck out five with all the other 13 outs coming on the infield, 12 grounders.

The Runnin’ Bulldogs only two hits of the contest came in the first inning with an infield single and a base hit down the right field line.  With runners on second and third and having already thrown two strikeouts, Morrow struck the next batter out looking for her third strikeout of the inning.

After Kayla Bishton drew a walk in the bottom of the first, Mantel came up and hit a two-run shot over centerfield for her seventh home run of the season which tied her with Ashley Taylor for sixth all-time in program history.

Radford broke the game wide open with a five run fifth inning thanks to three Gardner-Webb errors.  After an error, a wild pitch and a sacrifice put runners on second and third, Gagliano scored on another error.  Yow came up and was hit by a pitch and that loaded the bases before Medlam hit a two-run single to left field to make it 5-0.  Curbiera followed with an RBI single up the middle and Medlam came home on the final error.

Radford ended the contest an inning early when Mantel doubled to left-center and Yow followed with a double to right-center, her 11th of the year.

After a day off on Saturday the teams took the field Sunday for a doubleheader.  In game one Radford got a 3-1 win.  Curbiera and Marissa Yow provided the offense with a  pair of home runs.  Curbiera went 2 for 2, her first career multi-hit game.  Yow got the Highlanders on the board with a two-run homer in the fourth inning, her fourth home run of the season.  Robinson had two hits in the game, six total in both games.

Morrow was perfect until the fifth inning but finished her outing allowing only three hits.  She also had four strikeouts and no walks.  Morrow retired the first 14 batters, which was 30 in a row going back to Friday’s series opener.  While Gardner-Webb scored their lone run in the fifth, Radford responded when Curbiera led off the bottom frame with a home run over the right-field fence, the first of her career.

Game two of the twin bill saw Radford let a five-run lead slip away.  However, the Highlanders rallied three times to win in dramatic fashion 11-9 in extra innings thanks to a walk-off two run homer by Whitney Davis.

After each team scored in the 10th inning, Gardner-Webb scored two runs in the top of the 11th. In the bottom of the inning, Curbiera advanced to third on a passed ball, Mantel drew a walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch, and Summer Robinson followed with a game-tying two-run double to the gap in left-center.

Davis then came to the plate and sent the fans home happy.  She drilled a 1-1 pitch over the left-centerfield fence to complete the rally.  It was Davis’s eighth homer of the season and 30th of her career and gave Radford their first three-game conference sweep since 2014.

“The first pitch was a changeup and I fouled it off.  [Gardner-Webb pitcher Mackenzie Thompson]’s been coming with a lot of changeups today so I figured the next pitch was going to be a changeup so I got my timing down and hit it as hard as I could,” said Whitney Davis.  “It was a good all-around comeback both times.  I was proud to see that we kept fighting through the whole game.”

Robinson had a career-high four hits and four RBIs.  She tied the game at six in the bottom of the sixth with a two-out RBI single.  Marisa Gagliano also came up big for the Highlanders as her two-out RBI single in the 10th extended the game.  Gagliano totaled three hits, three RBIs and two runs scored.

“We talked a lot this year about toughness, playing with passion and purpose,” said head coach Aileen Morales.  “Today they showed that.  Whitney coming up with that clutch hit and being able to come up with that adjustment was huge.”

On the day as a whole, Curbiera hit her first two career homers with one in each game.  Abby Morrow recorded both wins on the mound.  After she threw a complete game in the first game, she worked 5 1/3 innings of relief in game two.  She didn’t allow an earned run in either game.  Radford improves their record to 24-15 overall and 7-5 in the Big South conference.

On Wednesday, softball will travel to Hampton for a doubleheader with game one beginning at 1:00 p.m.  The Highlanders will return home on Saturday for a Senior Day doubleheader against Presbyterian beginning at 1:00 p.m.  The third game of the series is Sunday at 1 p.m.

The softball team celebrates a walkoff win and a sweep of Garnder-Webb
The softball team celebrates a walkoff win and a sweep of Garnder-Webb.                                                        Courtesy of Radford Athletics
Abby Morrow shined on the mound
Abby Morrow shined on the mound.                                                                                                                         Courtesy of Radford Athletics