BELMONT — Belmont had not trailed at any point during their 6–0 start to the softball season, and the Braves came into Tuesday’s Six Rivers West game against Benton/Shullsburg riding a 19-inning scoreless streak on defense.
So when the Braves (7–0 overall, 3–0 SRC) found themselves trailing the Zephyr/Miners (3–3, 1–1) by four runs after four innings of play, they had to dig down deep and fight their way back in order to remain unbeaten.
Belmont sophomore Sadie Willborn tossed three scoreless innings in relief of senior Paige Nolan to keep the Benton/Shullsburg offense in check, and the Braves struck for five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning on their way to a 9–6 come-from-behind victory at Bond Park last Tuesday, April 11.
“Benton/Shullsburg hit the ball well and put us in a tough position,” said Belmont head coach Jeff Hodgson. “They have a young coach working hard to build a program and her work showed dividends. It was a character check for our team, and I thought we handled ourselves very well. I was proud of how calm our kids were. I think this lesson will serve us well down the road.”
Willborn and Nolan combined to go 6-for-8 at the plate with three doubles and three runs batted in and they combined to score five of the team’s nine runs on the day.
The Zephyr/Miners ended Belmont’s scoreless streak and put the Braves behind for the first time all season in the top of the first inning when lead-off hitter Kelsie Goffinet got hit by a pitch and came around to score on a groundout by McKailah Strang for a 1–0 lead.
Coach Jeff Hodgson’s squad answered right back in the bottom of the first with Willborn and Nolan drilling back-to-back RBI-doubles to put the hosts into the lead at 2–1.
The visitors grabbed the lead back in the top of the third inning. Savannah Hilby opened with a double and scored on an error to tie the game at 2–2, and Goffinet walked and came in to score on a wild pitch to put the guests up 3–2.
The Zephyr/Miners extended the lead to 6–2 in the fourth frame when Shay Soppe ripped a three-run, inside-the-park homerun to extend the lead to four runs. Through their first six games, the Braves had given up just four total runs.
Belmont got its offense back on track in the bottom of the fifth inning with their first seven batters reaching base safely to spark their five-run rally. Maddie Rand, Willborn and Nolan each singled and scored to open the inning, while Briana Ernst walked and scored on a passed ball and Caitlyn Gilbertson singled and scored on an error to thrust the Braves back into the lead at 7–6.
The Braves added two more insurance runs in the sixth inning to build up a 9–6 advantage. Willborn singled and her courtesy runner, Caitlyn Cushman, scored on a base hit by Gilbertson, while Nolan doubled and stole home for the other run.
Willborn (5–0) retired Benton/Shullsburg in order in the seventh to secure the win. She gave up one hit and did not walk a batter while recording four strikeouts in three innings of work to earn the victory. Nolan worked the first four innings, allowing six runs (four earned) on four hits and two walks with three Ks.
At the plate, Nolan went 3-for-4 with two doubles, two RBI and two runs. Willborn was 3-for-4 with a double, a RBI and a run, while Rand went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and Gilbertson went 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored for the hosts.
Belmont has upcoming Six Rivers’ games at Barneveld on Thursday and River Ridge/Cassville (Patch Grove) on Monday. The Braves return home to host Iowa-Grant in a non-conference game on Tuesday. All three games are set to start at 5 p.m.
Belmont 9, Benton/Shullsburg 6
(from Tuesday, April 11 @ Belmont)
Benton/Shulls. 102 300 0 — 6 5 2
Belmont 200 052 x — 9 12 1
Leading hitters — B/S: Jordan Busch 2x3; B: Maddie Rand 2x3, Sadie Willborn 3x4, Paige Nolan 3x4, Gaitlyn Gilbertson 2x4 2B — B/S: Busch, Hilby; B: Nolan 2, Willborn.
W — Sadie Willborn (5–0, 3P, 1H, 0R, 4K, 0BB. L — Hattie Rennert (6IP, 12H, 9R, 7ER, 6K, 2BB).