Timely hitting guides Western Illinois to weekend sweep

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (UND Athletics) -- Led by some clutch hitting and timely pitching, Western Illinois posted a pair of wins over North Dakota to complete the three-game sweep on Saturday afternoon at the Alerus Center.

UND (19-30, 4-8 Summit League) dropped its sixth straight conference showdown as well as suffered its first three losses inside the Alerus Center since moving to the facility as an alternate home site last season. The Fighting Hawks are currently sitting fifth in the Summit League standings after this weekend, and are holding a one-game lead over Purdue Fort Wayne.

GAME 1: Western Illinois 10, North Dakota 1 (6)
The Leathernecks exploded for seven runs in the top of the sixth to stretch a 3-1 lead to a 10-1 victory in six innings to open Saturday’s action inside the Alerus Center.

Angel Love led the way offensively for the Fighting Hawks with a pair of hits and drove in the lone run of the game to pace UND’s four hits in the opener while Nikki Pica was tagged with the loss in the circle after allowing seven hits and seven runs (four earned) over five innings in the defeat. Emily Rosas pitched the final inning for the hosts and allowed a trio of unearned runs.

Western Illinois jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but the UND defense did a strong job of limiting the Leathernecks to just a single run as the Hawks turned an unconventional double play to end the frame. In the bottom half of the inning, the green and white knotted the game as Jailene Carpio led off the frame with a double to left center before Love brought her home with a two-out single to quickly tie the contest at 1-1.

After both teams were retired in order in the second, WIU jumped back in front with a sacrifice fly in the top of the third to regain the lead, 2-1, before adding a third tally in the fifth to carry a 3-1 advantage into the final innings.

UND threated with a runner in scoring position in the bottom of the fifth, but could not get the run home. WIU followed with a seven-run outburst in the next half inning to grab the lead for good, 10-1, and claim the win in six innings.

GAME 2: Western Illinois 3, North Dakota 2
UND threatened with the tying and winning runs in scoring position with just one out in the bottom of the seventh, but Western Illinois escaped with a strikeout and flyout to capture a 3-2 victory and cement the weekend sweep.

Kayleen Schneider continued to show her veteran presence at the plate as a freshman by slashing a pair of hits to lead the team while Love drove home her second run of the day and Ashlynn Uvila also tallied an RBI. Carpio was also dynamic at the top of the order once again for the Hawks with a hit, two walks, and a run scored.

Rosas earned the start in the finale, but was pulled in the third inning after allowing three runs (two earned), four hits, and a walk in 2.1 frames pitched. Jannay Jones, who started Friday’s contest, entered in relief and shutdown the Leathernecks as the rookie tossed 4.2 scoreless frames while striking out three.

Much like the opener, WIU struck in the top of the first with a run on another sacrifice fly, but Rosas settled down by retiring the side in order in the second to keep the deficit at 1-0 heading to the third.

The Leathernecks kept attacking in the third frame, however, knocking Rosas out of the game with a pair of runs and three hits to take a 3-0 lead. Jones quieted the rally by getting back-to-back groundouts, including a great snag by the rookie on the final out, to end the inning.

UND answered back in the bottom half of the stanza as Carpio led off with a single before advancing to second on a passed ball and to third on a groundout with two away. Just like in the first game, Love brought home her teammate with an RBI single to cut the deficit to 3-1 after three.

The Hawks threatened in the fourth by loading the bases, but Deja Miller hit a ball right on a button into the glove of the first baseman to end the chance. In the sixth, UND cut the lead to just a run, 3-2, as a sacrifice fly by Uvila brought home Dani Romero heading to the final inning of play.

UND had its best chance in the bottom of the seventh as the green and white placed runners on second and third with just one out. Emily Ira, who had been a thorn in UND’s side all series, entered and was able to seal the win for the Leathernecks with a strikeout and flyout to end the game.

North Dakota will remain at home and move outdoors to the Apollo Sports Complex next weekend when the Fighting Hawks host South Dakota State beginning on Saturday with a doubleheader.