In what was billed as the pitching duel of the early season between two of the top pitchers in the Atlantic Sun, as well as the nation, Kiihnl prevailed 4-0 over USC Upstate’s Morgan Childers. In game two Kiihnl, serving as designated player, led with three hits and three runs batted in, both game highs as the Lady Bisons won 6-1.
“Upstate brings a lot of challenges,” Lady Bisons coach Kristin Ryman said. “The top of their order is as good as anybody in our league.
“We beat her but I will still say that Morgan Childers is one of the best pitchers in our league. They play the way it is supposed to be played. They play hard. They get after it. They don’t run their mouths. I love playing competitors like that. They challenged us from the first pitch to the last.”
Kiihnl entered the weekend ranked No. 1 nationally in the NCAA in hits allowed per seven innings (1.89). Childers was second with 2.15. Childers opened the weekend first in strikeouts nationally with 13.5 per game. She was also second nationally in earned run average (0.42).
Kiihnl, 16-2, allowed five hits on and struck out eight on the way to her seventh shutout of the season and her eighth complete game. It was the second shutout of the weekend for Kiihnl who blanked ETSU 5-0 Friday night.
The Lady Bisons have 15 shutouts this season, two short of tying their program record of 17 set last season.
Childers gave up eight hits. All four runs were earned. She walked two and struck out seven. Her record is 17-3.
It was a pitcher’s duel until the bottom of the fourth inning when the Lady Bisons managed to score one run. Kellie Sirus was hit by a pitch to open the inning. She moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Billington. Christen Campbell walked. Mollie Mitchell drove a ground ball single through the left side to score Sirus.
“We both knew that we had to make something happen as early as we could in the game,” Ryman said. “We didn’t have a ton of hits, but we put some things together at the right time that really helped us get on the boards.”
They had stalled Courtney Billington on third base in the second after she tripled to center field with one out. In the third the Lady Bisons had runners on first and second with one out but could not score.
The Lady Bisons scored three runs in the fifth. Lauren Dortwegt led off with a single to deep center. She advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Mackenzie Tucker. Abby Keese singled to bring in Dortwegt. Sirus then doubled to left to send Keese across the plate. Campbell followed with a double to left that scored Sirus.
Campbell pitched a complete game for her sixth win in eight decisions. She scattered seven hits and struck out six. She did not walk a batter. The run she allowed was unearned.
“Christen is not going to wow anyone with her speed, but she has great movement,” Ryman said. “She has really taken the movement on some of her pitches to the next level this year. That has made a world of difference for her.
“She has always been a competitor on the mound. She loves having the ball in her hand on the mound. Our team finds ways to win playing behind her.”
The game was scoreless until the bottom of the fifth. Mitchell opened the inning with a double to left. With one out, Kiihnl singled and moved to second on the throw. Dortwegt grounded out to the shortstop, allowing Mitchell to score. Kiihnl also scored.
“Early on in both games we left runners in scoring position,” Ryman said. “Ideally, you don’t want that. But we kept after it and kept fighting to find a way to push some runs across.”
The Lady Bisons added four runs in the sixth. Keese singled. The next two batters were out. Campbell then singled to right. Mitchell singled to center scoring Keese. Bree Thurman walked. With the bases loaded Kiihnl tripled to left, her first college triple, to bring in Campbell, Mitchell and Thurman home.
“When Mollie believes she can do something she can do some amazing things with the bat,” Ryman said. “We tell her to quit thinking and to swing the bat hard. When she swings the bat hard very good things happen for her. “
The Lady Bisons are 4-0 in the A-Sun and have won four straight games. They are 24-7 overall. Upstate had an eight-game winning streak end. They are 19-6 overall, 2-2 in the conference.
Tuesday the Lady Bisons are traveling to Bowling Green for a single game with Western Kentucky starting at 5 p.m.
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.