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Eckard's sac fly RBI lifts Juniata softball to split versus Penn State Altoona

(Posted April 29, 2010)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Juniata College senior Sarah Eckard's (Hollidaysburg, Pa./Hollidaysburg) sacrifice fly to center in the seventh inning drove in the game-winning run to lead Juniata to a 7-6 win over Penn State Altoona, in the first game of the schools' softball doubleheader on Thursday evening at Stewart Athletic Field.

The Eagles could not complete the sweep however, as the Lions fought off a seventh-inning Juniata rally to eke out the 8-7 victory.

Eckard's bases loaded fly ball to center allowed Nicole Fronczkowski (Wilmington, Del./Mount Pleasant) to score, giving Juniata a 7-5 lead. The Eagles were unable to pad their lead any further, as the next two Juniata batters popped up to close the frame.

Penn State Altoona cut the margin to 7-6 in the bottom of the seventh when leadoff hitter Erin Cline homered to left field, but Juniata pitcher Alyssa Erb (Hollidaysburg, Pa./Hollidaysburg) answered by getting the next two Lion batters out. The game ended when Penn State Altoona's Heidi Shoemaker reached on a single, but was caught stealing at second on a throw by Juniata catcher Steph Frith (Pottstown, Pa./Pottsgrove).

Juniata scored a single run in the first on an RBI double by Stacy Nagy (Millerton, Pa./Troy), and added two more in the third on two hits and three Lion errors. That left the game knotted at 3-3 headed into the fourth.

The two teams each plated two runs in the fifth, with Juniata scoring a pair on Amanda Gerlach's (Mesa, Ariz./Marcos de Niza) double to right center. The Eagles tacked on a single run in the sixth to take a 6-5 lead on a Caley McCool (Spring Mills, Pa./Penns Valley) single to right field, scoring Nagy.

Erb fanned seven Penn State Altoona batters to pick up the win, improving her record to 10-7 on the season. She allowed five earned runs on 10 hits while issuing two walks. Lion starter Jackie Smith also allowed 10 hits with three earned runs, and dropped to 9-4 with the loss in a duel of Hollidaysburg High School graduates.

Nagy and McCool each had a pair of hits to lead the Eagles to the win, while six other players finished with one hit. Amanda Gerlach was the lone multiple RBI producer for the Eagles with two runs batted in.

In game two, Juniata fell behind 5-0 after two innings and trailed 8-1 heading into the top of the seventh, but staged an impressive rally with six runs in the top of the frame.

Pinch hitter Jen Ashcraft (Bellefonte, Pa./State College Area) logged her first collegiate hit with a double to right center, and Frith got aboard on an error by the shortstop. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch, and Melissa Moffat (Oceanside, Calif./Oceanside) belted a double down the left field line to plate the two runs.

Three batters later, Nagy also cracked a two-base hit - this time into right center, allowing Moffat to cross the plate. After a strike out and a walk issued to Jen O'Neill (Sayville, N.Y./Sayville), Amanda Gerlach laced a single throught the right side that allowed two more runs to score.

Amanda Gerlach moved to second on a wild pitch that also allowed O'Neill to come home for Juniata's sixth run of the frame. Ashcraft drew a walk in her second at bat of the inning, putting the potential winning run aboard. With the tying run at second, Frith hit a sharp grounder to Lion shortstop Kelly McVay - who was right in Gerlach's path. Gerlach was unable to avoid the collision on the bang-bang play, and was called out on interference to end the game.

Juniata starter Stacy Nagy recorded just one strikeout while yielding six earned runs on 13 hits, and saw her record fall to 7-9.

Penn State Altoona starter Emily Boyer also notched just one strikeout while giving up one earned run in the winning effort, but was relieved in the sixth by Jennifer Fish. Fish allowed six Juniata runs, two of which were earned, on three hits in one-and-a-third innings of work, before Shoemaker came on in the seventh with the bases loaded and one out. She retired the first batter she faced on a strikeout, and eventually got out of the frame to post her first save of the season.

Nagy went 3-for-4 in game two, while Amanda Gerlach and Moffat had a pair of hits. Amanda Gerlach also finished with three RBI for the game.

Juniata continues its home-and-home series with Penn State Altoona on Saturday, May 1, when the Eagles host the Lions at 1:00 p.m. on Weaver Park Field.

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