By Tom Williams
About two hours after senior outfielder Haley Thomas became the third Youngstown State softball player to achieve 200 hits, she didn’t know it.
Just before she was leaving McCune Park after Tuesday’s doubleheader sweep of Saint Francis, coach Brian Campbell informed Thomas of her accomplishment.
“I had no idea,” said Thomas, a four-year starter whose three hits on Tuesday gave her 201.
After 3-2 and 9-1 victories, Campbell said individual milestones are nice, but the important numbers were wins 20 and 21 on the season.
“They’ve taken [big] steps all year long,” Campbell said. “I couldn’t be more pleased with how hard these young ladies have been working.”
In the second game, Thomas and senior Jordan Ingalls each had RBI doubles.
“I knew myself and Jordan [Ingalls] were up there,” said Thomas of YSU’s career hits list. “It’s definitely an awesome feeling, knowing all the work we’ve put in. To have two people up there is pretty spectacular.”
Ingalls is about 10 hits behind Thomas.
Thomas needs seven more hits to tie Amanda Berry for second-place on the YSU list. The career leader is current assistant coach Tiffany Patteson (231).
“I’m just proud of how [she’s] has played,” Campbell said of Thomas. “It’s been a joy for four years with that young lady, being a leadoff hitter and doing a tremendous job as a leader.”
The Penguins (21-6-1) needed extra innings to get the first win. In the bottom of the 10th inning, Sarah Gabel’s two-out single brought home Ingalls, who started the inning at second base with the international tiebreaker rule.
“I was just thinking ‘make contact and move my runners,’ said the junior outfielder, who added that she has mixed feelings about the tiebreaker.
“I do like it because it gets the game going, but I guess it depends on the situation,” Gabel said. “If we’re the home team and they score, it puts pressure on.”
Winning pitcher Hana Somogyi (6-1) escaped the Red Flash threat in the 10th by getting outs on a sacrifice, a ground out and a strikeout.
Trailing 2-0, the Penguins tied the game in the fourth inning. Sarah Ingalls’ bases-loaded walk brought home Vicky Rumph and Kristen Philen hit a fielder’s choice to score Samantha Snodgrass.
In the second game, Casey Crozier (9-3) earned the five-inning win after surrendering a leadoff double to Brianna Garcia and RBI single by Davina Kachnovitz to start the game.
With Kachnovitz erased on a steal attempt, Crozer faced the minimum (140 batters the rest of the way.
Ingalls’ double and Kayla Haslett’s two-out RBI single put the Penguins ahead 2-1 in the bottom of the first.
The Penguins added two runs in the third, one in the fourth and five in the fifth to win on the eight-run rule.
In the final at-bat, Snodgrass drove in two runs, Philen one and Ingalls’ RBI single scored Thomas to end the game.
After last year’s 22-24 season, Thomas called this season “awesome. It’s definitely been a dream [come true], the fact that everyone is doing so well.
“Our offense has done well as has our defense,” Thomas said. “And our pitching has been tremendous to give up so few runs.”
Gabel also believes the defense has stepped up.
“We’ve always been strong hitters,” Gabel said. “This year, our defense has been a lot better, more solid than last year.
“And we have more pitching — we only had two last year,” Gabel said. “[More pitchers] usually throws off batters. We’ve definitely done well from the pitching position.”
After their fifth straight win at home, the Penguins’ next 11 games will be on the road beginning with three Horizon League games this weekend in Chicago against Loyola.
Campbell isn’t fazed.
“I think it brings them together,” Campbell said. “I know that they are excited to get to go away to Chicago and spend a few days in each other’s company.”