JM Rieger, Staff Writer

After splitting their opening Mid-American Conference (MAC) series against Ball State University (BSU) last weekend, the Miami University softball team bounced back with a doubleheader sweep of the Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) Colonels.

The win improves Miami’s record to 16-15 as they get set for a doubleheader Friday against Eastern Michigan University (EMU).

The Red and White are 7-2 in their last nine games thanks to solid offensive performances as well as great pitching. Freshman first baseman Shannon Tillett was named the MAC East Division Player of the Week for this week after a spectacular week that culminated with a two home runs over the weekend against BSU. Last week she hit 0.545 and had a slugging percentage of 1.182.

“We are starting to play really well as a team,” head coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly said. “The kids are really stepping into their roles and the whole team is improving.”

In the first game against EKU, senior pitcher Meredith Linch threw a shutout, only allowing three hits and had six strikeouts, improving her record to 5-6. Two RBI singles in the top of the fourth by Tillett and sophomore catcher/designated hitter Casey Drees were enough to give Miami a 2-0 victory in game one.

“She was on her game today,” Schoenly said. “She had her stuff working for her and was able to work in a variety of pitches.”

Miami struck quickly in game two, as they opened up the game with a four run first inning thanks to senior shortstop Sarah Billstrom’s first career grand slam. She would later draw a walk in the top of the sixth to walk in a run, giving her a career-high five RBIs.

EKU came back in the bottom of the second with a grand slam of their own, but a solid relief performance by sophomore starting pitcher Jessica Simpson kept the Colonels off the score board for the rest of the game, allowing the RedHawks to take the nightcap 6-4.

The big turning point for the Red and White came in the top of the sixth inning, as sophomore outfielder Jordan McElroy came into the game to pinch hit, leading off the inning with a single up the middle, then scoring the go-ahead run later in the inning. Up to that point, the RedHawks had only had two hits since their four run first inning, and McElroy provided energy off the bench.

“Jordan McElroy gave us a big spark with her single (to lead off the inning),” Schoenly said. “She was a non-starter that game, and it is always big when players are ready to play coming off the bench.”

Miami will now look to continue their success into the weekend, as they have four conference games coming up, including two against Central Michigan University Saturday and Sunday.

“We feel good (after sweeping Eastern Kentucky) but we can always improve,” Linch said. “Conference (games) are always the main focus. These mid-week games keep us fresh for conference and help us get sharp for conference play.”

Tillett continued her offensive success, going 2-5 in the doubleheader including two walks and an RBI. Meanwhile, Billstrom continued her strong play going 2-5 as well, including her seventh home run of the season.

“Sarah is a big time player,” Schoenly said. “She has done a great job of stepping up for us this year and has done so much to help this team.”

Miami is back in action Friday for a doubleheader against EMU. The first pitches are set for 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., respectively.

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