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Night Hawks wrap up play In Leadoff Classic

Feb. 27—COLUMBUS- The Thomas University Softball Team (5-7, 0-0 SSAC) wrapped up play in the NFCA NAIA Leadoff Classic in-season tournament on Saturday afternoon. After remaining perfect on their first day of tournament play, the Night Hawks seemed up for the challenge on day two. Their schedule for day two featured two teams who have been recognized on the NAIA Softball Coaches' Top 25 Poll. The Night Hawks would shock #20 Freed-Hardeman, but fall in a pitcher's duel to (RV) Embry-Riddle.

In game one against Freed-Hardeman, the Lions would strike first in the bottom of the first inning. With the help of one hit and two Night Hawk errors, the Lions would plate three runs early in the contest.

Trailing 3-0, the Night Hawks would provide a response in the following inning. With runners in scoring position, Hailie Stewart would single, plating one run and cutting the deficit to two runs, 3-1.

The Night Hawks would carry this momentum into the top of the third inning. Averie Sheppard would lead off the inning with a triple down the right field line. With Sheppard on third base, Grace Hodges would perfectly execute a ground ball to the right side of the infield that would allow Sheppard to easily cross the plate. Hodges' RBI would cut the deficit to one run, 3-2.

The Lions would plate one additional run in the bottom of the third inning. This run would come courtesy of two hits and one Night Hawk error.

In the top of the fifth inning, an Ansley Eason RBI single would allow Kristen Stellar, who singled to left field, to score. Heading into the bottom of the fifth inning, the Lions would hold the advantage, 4-3. However, the Lions would later produce two runs in this inning via two hits.

The Night Hawks would make a large statement in the top of the sixth inning. Trailing 3-6, Thomas would produce eight runs to lead the Lions 11-6 at the conclusion of the inning. The Night Hawks would draw two walks and one hit by pitch to begin the inning in a bases loaded situation. With bases loaded, Kristen Stellar would smack a single to plate the first run of the inning. Three additional drawn walks and a Hodges RBI single would plate four more Night Hawk runs. A Vialpando sacrifice fly would then bring the sixth Night Hawk run of the inning across the plate. Then, Adreanna Killingsworth would conclude the inning with a 2 RBI smash of her own, that would plate the seventh and eighth runs of the inning.

The Night Hawks weren't done just yet. In the final inning of the contest, they would plate three additional runs on four hits. Stewart and Sheppard would single to begin the inning, then a Hodges 2 RBI single would allow both to cross the plate. Hodges would then score on a Kennedy Hardy RBI single.

Dominant hitting would lead the Night Hawks to a 14-6 victory over #20 Freed-Hardeman.

Amber Griffin would be credited with the win for the Night Hawks. In five innings pitched, Griffin would allow just seven hits and three earned runs, while also totaling three strike outs. Taylor Young was effective in relief. In two innings of work, Young would allow one hit and no earned runs.

In game two against Embry-Riddle, the Eagles would strike early in the contest. In the top of the first inning, Embry-Riddle would produce two runs on three hits and one Night Hawk error. These two runs would prove to make the difference, as they would be the only runs produced by either team for the entirety of the contest.

The Night Hawks would see several opportunities to score throughout the contest but would ultimately fail to plate a run. In four separate innings a Night Hawk would successfully reach base, but would be left stranded.

In a contest highlighted by pitching, the Night Hawks would fall to the Eagles, 2-0.

A combined effort from Sierra Ussery and Dale Elmore would hold the Eagles to just two runs. Sierra Ussery would pitch 3.1 innings, allow eight hits, and two earned runs. Dale Elmore would throw 3.2 innings in relief, allow two hits, and no earned runs.