Miami pitcher Meredith Linch brings the heat against Dayton Sunday afternoon. –Jeff Creech/The Miami Student

Kicking off their fall season, the Miami University RedHawk softball team came out on top in both games of a doubleheader against two nearby foes, University of Dayton and Wright State University, Sunday afternoon.

Miami knocked off Wright State 5-1 in the opening game and defeated Dayton 4-1 in the second contest.

The goal of the fall slate of games, which do count toward Miami’s record, is to be more prepared for the preseason in the spring, according to Miami Head Coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly. She cited last year’s slow start that the RedHawks enjoyed to the 14-8 MAC season as what needed to be improved upon.

“We have five new freshmen, so we’d like to see what they’re going to add, and we have the core group back,” Schoenly said. “We give the freshmen a lot of time in the fall, and they’re going to add to what we’ve got going.”

She also noted that freshmen Kathryn Russette, Jenna McGivney and Meghan Mawn might be a few expected to see some time on the field this season.

Furthermore, sophomore Sarah Billstrom will be expected to be more of a leader, Schoenly added.

The team has lofty goals after last season’s trip to the MAC tournament ended too quickly for the team.

“I look forward to going back to the MAC championship then winning it,” said junior Breanna Robinson. “We’re way more talented this year than when I was a freshman and we did win it.”

The team is optimistic and going into the season with high hopes.

“I just know we’re going to do well,” pitcher Shalise Lugo said. “We’re going to do really well. I can’t really say (why). I just know it’s going to be a good, strong season.”

In the first game of the fall season, with just two pitchers healthy, the RedHawks sent sophomore hurler Meredith Linch to the hill against the Dayton Flyers.

Linch picked up the win by shutting down the Flyer offense for five innings, yielding only two hits and no runs, while striking out eight. She was replaced in the sixth inning by Lugo, who let up one run and struck out four in her two innings of relief.

The scoring began quickly in the top of the first inning, where the Redhawks’ leadoff hitter, senior Halle Popson, worked a full-count before walking.

A base hit and another walk for junior Ashley Gartland and Billstrom, respectively, set the stage for sophomore Briana Burke to drive in Popson with a groundout.

Billstrom scored soon after on an RBI double to right-center by senior Christine Bills.

The RedHawks later scattered one run in each of the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. Briana Burke and Bills provided much of the offensive run production for the game, each driving in two runs, while Popson scored twice during the 5-1 triumph.

In the second game, the RedHawks took on the Wright State Raiders. They sent Lugo, who pitched four innings picking up the win, to the mound and let up just two hits and no runs, despite a pair of errors by the defense.

Linch entered the game in relief in the fifth, and after letting a base hit, she coaxed a towering fly ball that right fielder Bills appeared to lose in the sun. The ball dropped and resulted in a game-tying triple.

Linch proceeded to work out of the jam by striking out the next hitter. Linch went on to pitch three innings in the game, giving up a run on five hits and striking out four.

Miami’s offense would provide plenty for the team’s second straight win, as the RedHawks captured their second straight victory, 4-1.

While having just two healthy pitchers might seem like a lot for Lugo and Linch to handle, the two have made a very solid combination for the ‘Hawks.

“Meredith and I make a great combination and it’s going to be a really good season for both of us,” Lugo said. “During the summer I decided to play travel ball. I worked on my motion and getting my shoulder back into shape and did a lot of conditioning. We’re ready to go.”

The team will continue their fall schedule this weekend in Oxford against Northern and Eastern Kentucky.