By Dan Hiner
With two outs and first baseman Miranda Castiglione on first, Youngtown State University softball head coach Brian Campbell made an unconventional decision.
Designated hitter Cali Mikovich was facing a 0-1 count before Campbell called for a pitch hitter. Kayla Haslett, who was hitting .128, stepped into the batter’s box.
After Castiglione stole second base, Haslett hit a groundball to shortstop. Haslett beat out the throw to first base, and Castiglione gambled and tried to score from on the infield hit. As Castiglione slid into home, the small crowd realized the Penguins had won on a walk-off infield single.
“It’s just a gut feeling, going with a gut feeling,” Campbell said. “Haslett’s done a good job as far as putting the ball in play. I looked at Miranda at second base and told her if the balls hit she’s going, no matter where it was. Usually if it’s in the infield they’re going to go to first to get the out. She was able to beat it out at first base and Miranda was able to score to win the ballgame. It’s just something Haslett’s been doing fairly well during practice there and I just kind of went with it.”
The Penguins pulled out a 2-1 win against Oakland University in the first game of their doubleheader on April 1. With the win YSU improved to 11-15 (2-2) this season and will remain on top of the Horizon League standings.
Starting pitcher Caitlyn Minney had a rough start to the game. Minney allowed a two-out single to Oakland shortstop Sarah Hartley. After a stolen base from Hartley and a wild pitch, Hartley scored on an error by YSU shortstop Katie Smallcomb.
Minney was able to shutdown the Grizzlies’ offense — allowing only four hits and three walks the rest of the game. Minney threw a complete game allowing five hits and five strikeouts. Her record improved to 4-5 this season.
“I think Minney pitched well all day long. I really do — even when we brought her back in the second game,” Campbell said. “I thought she did a tremendous job. There was the last few outings that the young lady’s done a great job against Kent State and again today. I couldn’t be more proud of how she came in and did a good job in the first one and was able to come back and throw a few innings in the second game.”
The Penguins came back to tie the game in the second inning. Second baseman Brittney Moffatt hit a leadoff single to centerfield and advanced to third base after the ball got past the Oakland centerfielder. Moffatt scored on a two-out wild pitch by Grizzlies pitcher Erin Kownacki.
The YSU offense had plenty of opportunities to score throughout the game. The Penguins left six runners on base — four in scoring position. Every time the offense looked like it was about to get going Kownacki managed to work her way out of a jam.
The lack of offense was no surprise. Kownacki is statistically one of the best pitchers in the Horizon League. She was ranked fifth in the conference in ERA and first in wins.
The Penguins are scheduled to travel to Wright State University on April 3 at 5 p.m.