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Senior cen­ter­fielder Bekah Kastning broke the school record for single-season hits when she laid down a bunt in the Chargers’ first game against Ohio Dominican. (Photo: Sarah Klopfer / Courtesy)

The Hillsdale College softball team secured a spot in the GLIAC tour­nament in an increas­ingly com­pet­itive con­ference after splitting with the Ashland Eagles and the Ohio Dominican Pan­thers and ending their final home game of the season with a 9 – 3 win. The games put Hillsdale at 13 – 7 in the con­ference and 25 – 20 overall. 

The Chargers dropped game one to Ashland 4 – 1, the only run coming from senior cen­ter­fielder Bekah Kastning’s solo home run. Hillsdale was unable to regain the lead, but freshman pitcher Alexis Newby held the Eagles to zero runs in the final three innings of the game.

Though Hillsdale came back to win game two, it was just as close. Neither team scored runs until the sixth inning, when Hillsdale put two on the board. The Eagles answered with their only run of the game before a double from sophomore left fielder Katie Kish scored junior third baseman Jessica Taylor in the top of the seventh for a final score of 3 – 1.

On the mound, freshman Erin Gordon pitched five shutout innings for the win, and freshman pitcher Dana Wei­dinger got the save. Offen­sively, junior third baseman Kelsey Gockman went 2-for-3 with a walk, and Kish went 2-for-4 with an RBI.

“When we’re playing any of the top eight teams in the league, it’s hard because everyone’s so equal that any­thing can happen in any game,” head coach Joe Abraham said. “It’s no coin­ci­dence that you keep getting these splits, because the teams are so evenly matched.”

Sunday, Hillsdale honored its three senior team members — Kastning, catcher Cassie Asselta, and pitcher Kyra Rodi — before their final col­le­giate home games. Though Hillsdale dropped game one to the Ohio Dominican Pan­thers 4 – 1, it was still a game for the books: Kastning, who went 2-for-3 in the effort, broke the school record for single-season hits with a bunt single in the first inning which brought her to 77 hits. Gockman and Kish each went 2-for-3 in the game.

“Even if you’re not going to win every game, you can at least make the adjust­ments you have to make and become the better team in your second oppor­tunity,” Asselta said. “That’s exactly what we did game two on Sunday.”

The Charger bats came alive in the nightcap, scoring three runs in the top of the first. Sophomore second baseman Amanda Marra’s single scored Kastning, fol­lowed by a two-run single from freshman shortstop Sam Catron. The Chargers scored two more runs in the top of the sixth off singles from freshman catcher Sydney San Juan and freshman first baseman Shelby Sprouse, giving the team a 5 – 0 lead. The Pan­thers’ answered with a three-run home run to narrow the gap. 

The Chargers pulled away in the top of the seventh when a two-out, bases-loaded single from San Juan scored Kish, and a 3-RBI double from Sprouse scored San Juan, Catron, and Marra for a final score of 9 – 3.

“Six to three, we were in good shape,” Abraham said. “Five to three was making me nervous, but when Shelby hit that double, that was it.”

On the mound, Wei­dinger got the win in seven innings of work, allowing only three runs total and striking out one. Offen­sively, three-quarters of the batting lineup had a two-hit game.

“It was really good to see that we have a lot of fight in us, and we can battle through to get a win, espe­cially in that second game against Ohio Dominican,” Wei­dinger said. “We all just stepped up and came together. Throughout the lineup, everyone came in and had some clutch hits”

Tomorrow, Hillsdale will face Wayne State for the final con­ference dou­ble­header of the regular season, deter­mining the team’s position heading into its final GLIAC tour­nament. 

“Depending on if we win, lose, or split, it’s going to have a pretty big effect because we’re all neck-and-neck, the entire con­ference,” Asselta said. “I think it’s the closest I’ve seen it in my four years.”

Hillsdale and Wayne State are both 13 – 7 on the con­ference season, and are cur­rently tied for third in the GLIAC.