Senior first baseman Jennifer Dace hits a single against the Fort Hays State defense Friday afternoon at Turnbull Field. The Hornets won both games of the double header, 6-0 in the first and 7-1 in the second. Kellen Jenkins/The Bulletin
In a Senior Day doubleheader against Fort Hays State, the Emporia State softball team wrapped up regular season play at home, sweeping the series 6-0 in game one and 7-1 in game two.
Prior to the game, the Preston family was recognized for the scoreboard they donated to Turnbull Field.
In game one, the Hornets got ahead early after junior Miranda Campbell hit a single up the middle to allow sophomore Abby Hughes to run in the first point of the game.
Both teams held on defense until the bottom of the fifth inning, when senior catcher Aubree Brattin hit a double to left field to allow senior infielder Jennifer Dace to run in another point for the Hornets. ESU gained the momentum as junior outfielder Jenna Potter capitalized on a fielding error to first base to allow Brattin to run in to make it a 3-0 ball game.
The Hornets continued to hold on defense and followed with more hits in the bottom of the sixth inning. Campell hit another single to center field to allow junior Linda Ketter to score. Dace followed with a double up to center field to run in Campbell and sophomore Angela Mahan.
Senior Megan Dennis threw her sixth shutout of the year and is fifth in the MIAA in strikeouts per 7.0 innings and wins, ninth in ERA and 10th in opponent batting averages.
“I came out to try and get ahead of everyone to keep it low and it helped getting the strikeouts,” Dennis said.
Offensively, the Hornets posed a threat at bat with runners in scoring position every inning.
Campbell went two for three at bat and Dace went two for four, both with two RBI. Brattin went one for three with one RBI.
Dace hit within one double of the ESU career record for doubles.
“It was a big day for all of us,” Dace said. “For the seniors it was all about thanking the community and thanking Emporia for all they have done for us and we just wanted to come out here and put on the best show we could.”
In game two, the Hornets started with another early lead in the bottom of the first inning when the Tigers fumbled the ball at first base to allow Hughes to advance from second base to score the first point of the game.
Neither team would score until the bottom of the third inning when Campbell hit a home run to left field, getting her eighth home run of the year. Potter put the Hornets up 3-0 after hitting a ground ball to second base to allow Dace to score.
After holding the Tigers in the top of the fourth inning, the Hornets continued to make plays at bat with Peters hitting the second home run of the game out to left field.
Fort Hays got their first and only run of the game in the top of the fifth inning when catcher Cortney Brown hit a home run to left field to bring the count to 4-1.
After holding in the top of the sixth inning, the Hornets continued to make offensive runs, scoring three more points.
Campbell led the Hornets on offense in game two, going two for three with two RBI. Peters was perfect at bat, going three for three with one RBI.
“Offensively we did great,” Dennis said. “We saw the ball well and we put it in play. They made the errors and we got the hits we needed.”
On defense, Dennis allowed two hits in game one and freshman Jennifer Heerey allowed three hits in game two.
“Everyone did their part today,” Brattin said. “Our pitchers threw phenomenal and our defense was tight today.”
Allowing one run on three hits, Heerey got her 19th run of the year.
“I just thought it was a great team effort,” said Head Coach Kristi Bredbenner. “We came out, we hit the ball well, we had great pitching, we played great defense and I think that is what it is all about right now.”
Taking the series 2-0, the Hornets’ seniors said they felt it was a good way to end their last game at home.
“We definitely wanted to go out with a bang and we did,” Dennis said. “It is the last time we will get to play out here and I am glad we did it like that.”
The Hornets have had success at home for the majority of the season, winning 22 of their last 25 games at the Trusler Sports Complex.
“We have been a little up and down with our consistency,” Brattin said. “But we are ending strong going into our post-season play and that is all that matters.”
The seniors are not the only ones who feel the wins were bittersweet.
“It is always sad to see your seniors go but they have had a successful career here and you just want to see them succeed and do well and you replace what you can and you move on from there,” Bredbenner said. “But they are a good group and I have had a lot of fun with them and they have achieved a lot here over the last couple of years and so hopefully they will keep on going here in the next couple of weeks.”
The Hornets ended the regular season with an overall record of 36-13 and went 15-5 in the MIAA. The Hornets led the MIAA in team batting average at .319 while the closest team behind them is hitting a .290 average. The Hornets also lead in slugging percentage at .484, while Washburn trails in second with a .452 average.
ESU is now preparing for post-season play in the MIAA Tournament.
“We are taking a couple of days off,” Bredbenner said. “We really have not had any time off these last couple of weeks because we have a lot of games. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we will practice hard and then get ready for Thursday because we have to play two that night.”
The Hornets will play in the first round of the MIAA Tournament at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 30 in Overland Park, Kan.