Zips Slip Past Falcons, 3-2, to Complete Friday Sweep

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Taylor Kirian's solo homer in the fourth inning broke a 2-2 tie and lifted the University of Akron to a 3-2 win over the Bowling Green State University softball team Friday afternoon (April 28). The Zips captured the opening game of the Mid-American Conference doubleheader by a 6-1 score at Meserve Field.

The Falcons are now 23-29 overall and 9-11 in MAC play. Through Friday's action around the conference, BGSU is in fifth place in the MAC's East Division, and the Falcons are currently ninth overall. BG is a game behind eighth-place Toledo (10-10 MAC) and a game and a half in back of seventh place Kent State (10-9 MAC).

The Zips, now 25-25 and 11-9, respectively, are third in the East and sixth overall in the MAC standings.

"This is a disappointing day," said BGSU coach Sarah Willis. "We didn't take care of the things we needed to take care of, and we didn't get the outcome we had hoped for."

Lexie Handley picked up the win in each game for the Zips, with a complete-game victory in the opener followed by 3 1/3 innings of scoreless, one-hit relief in the nightcap. Handley walked a batter, hit a batter and threw two wild pitches in the nightcap, but she entered the game with the bases loaded in the fourth inning and got a ground ball that ended the BG threat.

The Zips pounded out 12 hits in the opening game, with both Alyssa Nicholas and Jenna Jones going 3-for-3 in the win. Kirian had two hits and scored two runs in that contest, while Ashley Sims went 2-for-2 in the second game.

Senior Sami Parave led the Falcons with three hits on the day, going 2-for-3 in the opener and 1-for-2 with a walk in the second game.

Sophomore Alex Sorgi had a hit in each game for the Falcons, scoring a run and driving in a run in game two. Junior Laine Simmons had an RBI in the second game, while freshman Taylor Blevins entered each game as a pinch runner and came around to score on both occasions.

Parave reached base four times in six plate appearances in the DH, while senior Haley Schrock had a .571 on-base percentage. Schrock had a hit, three walks and a sacrifice bunt on Friday.

Akron broke on top in the opener with three second-inning runs. Kelly Hysong singled, and a sac bunt moved pinch-runner Kayla Schlosser to second. Kirian's double plated the game's first run, and Caitlin Gambone singled to put runners at the corners.

Gambone stole second as the Falcons elected to hold Kirian at third, but Jones' blooper landed just inside the left-field line, with Kirian scoring. BG shortstop Aspen Searle made a nice running catch of a Sims popup on the grass behind third base, but a single by Nicholas gave UA a three-run lead.

The Falcons got a run back, without benefit of a hit, in the bottom of the inning. Chelsea Raker walked, and pinch-runner Blevins took second on a wild pitch by Handley. Simmons was hit by a pitch, and Katee Hinkle's bunt was fielded by the UA pitcher, but her throw to first base missed the mark, allowing Blevins to score and putting runners at second and third.

But, Handley got a strikeout and a popup to first to produce two outs without advancing the runners. Sophomore Hannah Giammarino walked to load the bases, fouling off five-straight pitches before taking ball four on the 11th pitch of the at-bat. But, Gambone made a nice stop of a hard-hit ball to third by Sorgi, throwing to first for the third out.

BG threatened again in the fourth, as Hinkle hit a ball over the first baseman and into shallow right for a single -- BG's first hit of the day -- and Parave's perfectly-placed bunt resulted in another hit for the Falcons. Sosby then hit an absolute scorcher, but UA second baseman Anna Tarpley ranged to her right and caught the liner near second base. A sac bunt moved the runners to second and third, respectively, but Handley got an inning-ending strikeout to keep her team two runs ahead.

The Zips added to the lead in the top of the fifth. Nicholas singled with one out, and Savannah Fruin beat out a slow roller toward shortstop. Laura Lakins followed with a single to shallow right-center that scored Nicholas and put runners at the corners.

The visitors then attempted a double steal, and the Falcons threw out Nicholas at second. UA went 4-for-8 in stolen-base attempts in the twinbill. But, as Nicholas was gunned down at second, Fruin broke for home and slid in safely, giving UA a 5-1 lead.

And, Akron added to the advantage in the sixth. Kirian singled, took second on Gambone's bunt and scored on a Jones double.

Parave singled with two down in the bottom of the sixth, and Sorgi and Searle each reached base in the seventh, but BG could not cut into the lead.

Handley picked up the win, allowing just one unearned run and five hits in her complete-game effort. She walked four batters hit one and threw two wild pitches, but struck out four Falcons. And, BG left nine runners on base to the Zips' six in the game.

Sophomore Meredith Miller suffered the loss for the Falcons, pitching the first six innings before classmate Kiley Sosby worked a scoreless seventh.

In game two, BGSU again left nine runners on base, while Akron left only three.

The leadoff hitter reached in the first inning for each team, as Sims walked against BG starter Brooke Parker and Sorgi was hit by a Kooper Vertz pitch. But, Sims was immediately thrown out attempting to steal, and after Sorgi took second on Schrock's sac bunt, the Falcons could not advance the speedy soph any closer to home.

In the second inning, Hysong doubled with one down, and pinch-runner Madison Carter stole third with two outs, but Parker threw a called third strike past Tarpley to retire the side. But, the Zips would break on top in the third.

Gambone singled, and Jones' bunt moved the runner to second base. Sims reached as her one-hopper skimmed off of the top of the glove of a leaping Parker, and after Sims stole second, Nicholas hit a bouncer toward Searle at short. Searle fielded the ball as Sims crossed in front of her, but when the BG shortstop attempted to tag Sims, but UA junior knocked the ball loose and everyone was safe as Gambone crossed the plate with the game's first run.

Sims was gunned down at the plate on a double-steal attempt, but Fruin's blooper to shallow center scored UA's second run.

Sosby, however, led off the BG third by clubbing a ball over the head of leftfielder Fruin and off of the wall for a stand-up double. Giammarino bunted pinch-runner Blevins to third, and a squeeze play netted the Falcons a run, as Blevins slid around a tag attempt after Sorgi's bunt.

Schrock walked, and after a grounder produced the second out, Raker walked to load the bases and another walk, this time to Simmons, scored Sorgi and tied the game. A grounder to second ended the inning as BG left the bases loaded.

But, it took Akron little time to regain the lead, as Kirian hit an opposite-field homer with one down in the fourth. Parker got the next two batters to hit the ball to Searle -- one in the air and one on the ground -- to retire the side. Then, BG loaded the bases for the second-straight inning.

In the Falcon fourth, Parave led off with a single before Vertz retired the next two hitters. But, Sorgi reached on an error, and Schrock walked to load the bases. Handley, however, entered the circle and got a grounder to third for an inning-ending force play.

Neither team threatened in the fifth, as Sims' one-out single was followed by a Nicholas double-play ball, and Gambone made a nifty pick of a hot shot off the bat of Simmons.

In the sixth, Fruin walked before Parker retired the next three Zips, and BG looked to mount a rally in the bottom of the inning.

Parave walked, then took second on a wild pitch. A light rain had been falling for much of game two, and a pitch got away from Handley and hit Sosby on the batting helmet. As Briana Combs entered the game to pinch-run for Sosby, the umps called for the tarp and the teams waited through a 36-minute rain delay.

When play resumed, Handley struck out the next batter, but the strike-three pitch got away from the catcher and the runners moved up. Handley then uncorked a would-be wild pitch with Sorgi at the plate, but catcher Nicholas played the carom off of the back wall and fired the ball to Handley, who was covering the plate and tagged Parave out. Then, a groundout left Combs stranded at third.

Parker retired UA in order in the top of the seventh, and after a grounder began the bottom of the inning, Fruin robbed Searle of a hit with a diving catch in left-center. Raker followed with a base hit, but pinch-runner Makayla Wood could not advance any further as Handley got a game-ending popup.

Handley picked up her second win of the day, improving to 19-14 on the year. She allowed just one hit in 3 1/3 innings, walking one, throwing two wild pitches for the second-straight game and hitting a batter. Vertz allowed two runs and three hits in 3 2/3 innings, walking four, hitting one and striking out two.

Parker suffered the loss for BG despite allowing just two earned runs and six hits in her complete-game effort. She walked a pair of batters and struck out three.

"Overall, our at-bats got progressively batter today, and the confidence throughout our lineup got better," said Willis. "But, Akron came to play today. They hit the ball well, played some great defense today and took some hits away from us.

"All we can do is try to take care of the next day and the next game. We need to come out here tomorrow and make some things happen for ourselves,"

The Falcons and Zips will look to complete the weekend series on Saturday (April 29). First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m., following the conclusion of BGSU's Senior Day festivities. BG's senior class includes Combs, Hinkle, Parave, Raker and Schrock.