Rio softball splits with Sand Sharks

By Randy Payton - For Ohio Valley Publishing

HARDEEVILLE, S.C. — Maria Molloseau tossed a six-hit shutout to lead the University of South Carolina-Beaufort to a 3-0 game two win over the University of Rio Grande on Friday night, helping the Sand Sharks salvage a split of their non-conference doubleheader at the Richard Gray Athletic Complex.

Rio Grande, the No. 23 team in the NAIA’s preseason coaches’ poll, squeaked out a 2-0 win in the opener and finished the day at 4-4.

The split left USCB at 9-3 for the season.

Molloseau (3-0) did not walk a batter and struck out four in a complete game effort. She has not allowed an earned run this season in her eight appearances in the circle – a stretch covering 29-1/3 innings.

Two of the Rio Grande hits went for extra bases – doubles by sophomore Brooke Hoffman Columbus Grove, OH) in the first inning and freshman Kayla Slutz (Navarre, OH) in the fourth – but the RedStorm failed to cash in on either scoring opportunity.

USCB scored what proved to be the only run it would need against Rio senior starter Mallory Powell (Flatwoods, KY) in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Canyon Crosby reached on a one-out single and was replaced on the bases by Melina Martinez. Alex Moore was then hit by a pitch, moving Martinez to second, before a steal of third by Martinez and a sacrifice fly by Molloseau sent the Sand Sharks in front.

USCB added a pair of insurance markers in the fifth at the expense of Powell and junior reliever Kacee Jenkins (Jackson, OH).

Kylie Kelly led off with a single, prompting Powell’s departure from the circle in favor of Jenkins. Kayla Boyle promptly reached on a bunt single and a throwing error by Jenkins on a sacrifice bunt attempt by Natassja Hatcher allowed Kelly to race home.

Crosby followed with a single to score Boyle and make it 3-0, before Jenkins got out of the jam with a pair of groundouts and a foulout.

Rio did get a leadoff single by freshman Mary Pica (Minford, OH) in the seventh inning, but Slutz lined into a double-play and freshman Aubrey Azbill (Miamisburg, OH) grounded out to third to end the game.

Powell suffered the loss, allowing four hits and two runs over 4-plus innings. She walked three batters and struck out one.

Kelly and Crosby had two hits each in the win for the Sand Sharks.

Friday’s opening game was a pitcher’s duel between Rio junior starter Conkey (Minford, OH) and USCB starter Abby Pac.

Conkey escaped unscathed by working out of trouble in the first, third and fourth innings.

The RedStorm recorded the final out of the first inning by catching Rachel Frankhouser too far off the bag at third base on an infield hit by Boyle, while sophomore shortstop Michaela Criner (Bremen, OH) started a 6-3 double-play to end a bases-loaded, one-out threat in the fourth.

Rio only had one runner advance into scoring position through the first six innings.

Conkey led off the fourth with a single to left-center and moved to second on a sacrifice by Powell. Pica followed with a walk and Conkey moved to third on a flyout to right by Slutz, but junior Carly Skeese (Newark, OH) grounded back to the pitcher’s circle to end the threat.

The RedStorm finally scored their breakthrough in the top of the seventh when Skeese led off with a double off the glove of Kelly at third base and moved to third on a two-out single to left-center by Criner.

Skeese scored moments later when Kelly bobbled Hoffman’s grounder to third for an error and Conkey followed with a single to right which plated Criner with the second run.

Conkey retired the side in order in the bottom of the seventh to seal the win.

Criner finished 3-for-4 in the victory, while Conkey helped her own cause with a pair of hits.

In the circle, Conkey allowed just five hits and a pair of walks in the shutout effort. She struck out four.

Boyle went 3-for-3 and Hatcher was 2-for-2 in a losing cause for USCB. Pac was the hard-luck loser, allowing seven hits, one walk and the two unearned runs.

Rio Grande will wrap up its four-game weekend trip to the Palmetto State with a doubleheader on Saturday against the College of Coastal Georgia.

First pitch for game one is set for 11 a.m.

By Randy Payton

For Ohio Valley Publishing

Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.

Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.