Smith’s walk-off grand slam leads Juniata softball past Lycoming, 12-9

Smith’s walk-off grand slam leads Juniata softball past Lycoming, 12-9

HUNTINGDON, Pa. – Juniata College sophomore Rachel Smith (Martinsburg, Pa.) belted a walk-off grand slam home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to lead the Eagles to a 12-9 extra-innings win over Lycoming College, Wednesday afternoon at Weaver Park Field.

Game two of the scheduled twinbill was called due to darkness after just four innings, with Juniata (9-14) trailing 10-4.

Trailing by one run heading into the bottom of the ninth, Erin Francis (Parkton, Md./Hereford) on second under the tiebreaker format, and advanced to third when Steph Frith (Pottstown, Pa./Pottsgrove) reached on an error by the Lycoming third baseman. Lady Warrior reliever Caroline Lapano issued a walk to Juniata's Paige Robertson (Altoona, Pa./Altoona Area), setting the stage for Smith's game-winning shot over the fence in left-center field.

Smith's homer was her second of the day and the third of her career, and completed a day full of dramatics for the Eagles.

Lycoming (5-16) scored twice in the top of the eighth to grab an 8-6 lead, scoring runs on Amy Cline's grounder to short and a Kristen Steiner bunt single to third base.

In the Juniata half of the eighth, the first two Eagle batters failed to either get aboard or even advance tiebreaker runner Kelsea Decker (Waynesboro, Pa./Waynesboro), bringing up junior Jen Ashcraft (Bellefonte, Pa./State College Area) with two outs.

Ashcraft proceeded to crush a two-run home run, the first of her career, to tie the game at 8-8. 

Lycoming put up one run in the top of the ninth when Nikki Marianelli crossed the plate on Brie Braga's sacrifice fly to right field, before Juniata ended the contest in the bottom of the frame.

Smith belted her first round-tripper of the game in the fifth inning, with a three-run shot that grazed the left field foul pole to score Robertson and Francis and give Juniata a 6-3 lead. Both runners got aboard earlier in the inning with singles. 

Lycoming answered with a single run in the sixth on Allyson Marianelli's RBI double down the left field line, and tied the game with a pair of runs with two outs in the top of the seventh. The first three Lady Warrior loaded the bases on a single and a pair of walks, before Eagle starter Decker retired the next two batters on a strike out and a pop-up to short to put Juniata one out away from the win.

Decker was unable to complete the win in regulation, as Lycoming's Braga lined a double into the gap in left center to score Janelle Poorman and Kristen Steiner and tie the game at 6-6.

Lycoming opened the game by scoring a single run in the first inning on Poorman's base hit down the left field line to score Holly Lansberry, but Juniata took the lead with a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning. Smith stroked an RBI double into right center to tie the game, while Decker singled into center field to drive in Smith.

The Lady Warriors regained the lead with a pair of runs in the second on Lansberry's two-run double. Juniata evened things up at 3-3 in the third on another RBI double off the bat of Smith.

Smith finished the game 4-for-5 at the plate, including two doubles and two home runs, with three runs and nine RBI. Decker had two hits for the Eagles, while Robertson, Ashcraft, and Francis each had one hit.

Decker allowed nine runs, seven earned, on 11 hits in the complete game win, but fanned seven Lycoming batters and improved her record to 7-6. Lapano, who gave up Smith's game-winning grand slam, took the loss and fell to 1-2. Braga started in the circle for Lycoming, and allowed eight runs, seven earned, on eight hits with nine strikeouts.

Lansberry had a 3-for-4 day at the plate for Lycoming with two runs and two RBI, while Steiner had a pair of hits and Braga drove in three runs.

Juniata returns to action on Saturday, April 14, when the Eagles host Susquehanna University in a Landmark Conference doubleheader starting at 1:00 p.m.  The game will be the Eagles' final home contest of the 2012 season, and senior Erin Francis will be recognized in pre-game ceremonies.