The Athena Softball team went 5-1 during a three day, six game stretch at the Tucson Invitational Games over Spring Break. The only loss, 0-2, came in their opening game against #12 Central College from Iowa in a championship caliber pitching duel that was 0-0 until a walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Though disappointed with the loss, the high level of play generated momentum that fueled five straight victories during which the Athenas outscored their opponents 30-5, averaging 6 runs per game while yielding, on average, one run per game.
Pitching and defense continued to scaffold the success as senior Rebecca Gularte and freshman Hayley Schultz led from the circle. Gularte, 3-0 on the tournament threw 17 innings amassing an ERA of 0.83. Schultz, 2-1, threw 21 innings, compiling a 1.33 ERA, with 19 strike outs. The 1-2 pitching combo held opposing batters to .203 and .167 batting averages respectively.
Schultz, though a rookie, pitched like a veteran against a feisty, seasoned Central College lineup through six scoreless innings. Poised and composed throughout, the Los Angeles native struck out five, walked none and scattered four hits. Throughout the evening, she watched her teammates narrowly miss a couple opportunities to go on top in a thrilling, electric playoff atmosphere, only to return to the circle and keep the game scoreless. In the top of the sixth, senior Megan Morris belted a ball to straightaway center requiring a phenomenal crash-through-the-fence catch to take away a home run and put the Athenas on top. In a heartbreak that all great pitchers have experienced, it wasn't until the bottom of the seventh, game still scoreless, that she gave up her fourth hit, a perilous walk-off home run.
Despite their disappointment, the Athenas bounced back immediately, taking Denison University down 9-1 in six innings in a game that started just 15 minutes later. The momentum of day one carried over to four more wins the next two days in which the squad gave up only four runs.
Sophomore Michaela Ecklund (pictured right) wielded the hot bat to lead all hitters at .611, with a staggering OB% of .667 over the six games. Not far behind her, senior Michelle Brody hit .471 with 3 doubles and 5 RBIs coming through with clutch hits repeatedly. Megan Morris led all scorers getting home 7 times. Freshman Shelby Long exploded onto the scene hitting .471 and leading all hitters with an .824 slugging percentage and 14 total bases in her collegiate debut. Senior Rebecca King (pictured below), catching all but a couple of innings over the three day stretch, batted .357 with a team high 6 RBIs and a .526 on-base percentage as the squad's field general.