HAMMOND, Ind. — Kyleigh Payne saved her sixth home run of the season for a clutch moment in Friday’s nightcap, when her two-run swing tied the game against visiting Aquinas (Mich.) College in a two-game split for the Purdue University Northwest softball team.
Payne (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bishop McNamara) belted a two-run shot over the center field fence in the bottom of the seventh inning of Game 2 to tie the game at 3-all and send it into the eighth, where both teams would score a run before the game was called a 4-4 tie due to darkness.
The Pride (10-11-1) dropped the first decision, 3-1, to the Saints (20-1-1) of Grand Rapids, Mich., at Dowling Park's Fifth Third Bank Field.
Purdue Northwest — who was forced to postpone its conference opener with St. Ambrose originally scheduled for Saturday due to inclement weather — will return to action Tuesday, March. 28, with a road Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference pair at Judson in Elgin, Ill.
GAME 1: AQUINAS 3, PNW 1
Senior Allyson Leach (Demotte, Ind./North Newton) led the way in the day’s opening game for PNW, going 2-for-3 with two doubles at the plate and score the Pride’s lone run, which came in the fifth.
Aquinas opened the contest with all three runs in the third inning, capitalizing on a PNW error and then adding two more unearned runs on a Anna Kenny double and Brooke Senkbeil single.
Leach would cross the plate in the fifth when PNW sophomore Olivia Sardella (Dyer, Ind./Lake Central) doubled through the left side after Leach doubled in her at-bat.
Sardella, Taylor Kotzo (Munster, Ind./Munster), and Haley Loden (Crown Point, Ind./Lake Central) added hits for PNW in the opener. Senior Caroline Brown (Minooka, Ill./Minooka Community) pitched a gem despite the loss, as the right-hander didn’t give up an earned run and scattered seven hits, striking out five.
GAME 2: PNW 4, AQUINAS 4 (8 innings)
Aquinas opened the game with a 3-0 lead heading into the fifth, but the Pride responded with a run in the bottom of the frame on a Kyleigh Payne RBI single to center field that scored Hannah Lopez (Granada Hills, Calif./Bishop Alemany).
Trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh, it was Payne to the rescue again with a two-out, two-run home run to dead center that tied the game and sent the game into extra innings. Sophomore Lauren Maynard (Griffith, Ind./Griffith) gave the Pride the chance to tie it with her inning-opening single and pinch runner Samantha Oppenhuis (Munster, Ind./Illiana Christian) scored the run on Payne’s big hit.
With the international tie-breaker in effect and a runner on second, Aquinas answered with Emma Adams’ RBI-single up the middle to take a 4-3 lead, but PNW would tie it again in the bottom of the eighth on a Saints’ error that would score Holly Pagan (Bartlett, Ill./Bartlett).
The game was called a 4-4 tie at the conclusion of the eighth due to darkness.
Payne finished the game 3-for-4 at the plate with three RBI, a home run and a double. Teammates Pagan, Tessa Steffens (Litchfield, Ill./Litchfield), Caroline Brown (Minooka, Ill./Minooka Community), Hannah Lopez and Maynard added hits for the Pride.
Audrey Headley (Lafayette, Ind./McCutcheon) went the distance in the circle, scattering nine hits, allowing three earned runs and striking out one.