(Con)Gratz: senior singles as Storm snap streak

CLERMONT, Fla. – Lake Erie captured its first win of the season with a 3-2 victory over Lewis (Ill.) on Thursday morning.

The Storm (1-6) got solid clutch pitching from sophomore left-hander Katarina Davis, and LEC was patient on offense, drawing six walks in the five-inning, rain-shortened affair against the Flyers (4-7), a program that went 31-18 (.633) a year ago. The Green & White won the game in come-from-behind fashion – Lake Erie was down, 2-1, heading into the fifth-and-final inning.

And according to Head Coach Stephanie Smith, who logged her first career win in the process, that comeback and the four frames that preceded it were a mental test for the Storm. "This was an impressive performance," said Smith. "Everyone was focused on what they could do to produce a win, and they did so in some unfavorable conditions."

Those unfavorable conditions would end the game after five and nix the back half of a scheduled split doubleheader; LEC was slated to play Notre Dame (Ohio) at 1 p.m., but that game was postponed (no make-up date has been announced). The rainy conditions would also be the setting for Lake Erie earning its first win of the season and breaking a 37-game losing streak that dates back to March 7 of last season.

On Thursday the Storm batted as the home nine, and they struck first, scoring a solo run in the bottom of the second. Jeniffer Gratz led off the inning with a walk, but it appeared after back-to-back strikeouts that Gratz would be stranded. A two-out single down the right-field line plated Gratz and gave Davis and the Storm an early lead.

Davis, who herself had worked out of scoring situations in the first and second, protected the LEC lead by inducing two pop-ups after there had been two Flyer runners aboard with one out in the third inning. Lake Erie threatened but came up empty in the bottom of the third.

Lewis then vaulted into the lead by scoring two in an inning that saw Davis struggle-and-then-rebound. The Flyers worked three singles, a stolen base and a sacrifice bunt into their scoring equation. And they plated both runs with two-out hits. But Davis induced another inning-ending fly-out, quashing the rally with a runner on second.

LEC loaded the bases but failed to score in its half of the fourth. Davis worked a scoreless fifth, setting up the Storm comeback.

Freshman shortstop Lindsay Valvoda led off the fifth with a double. After a pop out and then a walk, it was Gratz who delivered a game-winning base knock.  The senior from Richwood, Ohio, belted a hit to center field that scored Valvoda and Elizabeth Karako, who had reached via a base on balls.

Gratz reached second on that error and was then left on third as the game continued through the end of the fifth. At that point Mother Nature had had enough softball on this Thursday in Central Florida, and the Storm had had enough of a losing streak that began nearly a year ago, also in Central Florida.

"Everyone focused and played hard when it mattered most," said Smith.  


Notes:
Lake Erie went 2-of-6 off left-handed reliever Chase Machain on Thursday. On the season the Storm are now batting .310 (9-of-29) off left-handed pitching. … LEC got its leadoff batter aboard in 4-of-5 innings. For the season the Storm own a .415 on-base percentage in such situations. … Valvoda's fifth-inning double marked her team-leading second of the season. … Karako was one of four Storm batters to reach base twice in the game. She and Hannah Shevenell are tied for the team lead in on-base percentage, at .455. … Thursday's contest marked the first time this season and just the second time in its last 45 games that the Storm have yielded less than three runs.


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