It's been a long, tough road for Biola Softball to get back to a competitive place at the national level, but the team made sure everyone knew it belonged with a 4-0 win over Taylor (Ind.) in its first-round contest at the NAIA Softball National Championship Opening Round.
The Eagles opened play in the Reinhardt bracket double-elimination tournament with a contest against a Taylor team that entered the day with a 41-15 record and Crossroads League Championship in tow. Biola and Taylor have met just once before in program history, with Biola taking an 11-2 victory over the Trojans in 2008.
CeCe Luster got the call, and she went three scoreless innings in the circle before handing off to Reba DePriest, who went four scoreless and picked up the win.
"Going into the game, we had the same pitching plan we have used all season," said Head Coach Lorie Coleman.
That plan proved effective, as the Eagles' two aces held the Trojans off-center all contest long and allowed just three hits on the afternoon.
Combined with its pitching, the Eagles relied on their other big strength, defense, to outplay Taylor. Coleman knew that the Trojans had some defensive liabilities in the field and crafted her offensive game plan to take advantage of it. It worked.
Biola used its speed and small ball to get runners on base and turn up the pressure on the Trojans' pitchers. Once on base, the Eagles were able to force one error, one wild pitch, one passed ball and five walks to get their offense moving.
They used a big inning in the top of the fourth to break open the game and grab a 3-0 lead late.
That inning began with back-to-back walks by the eventual losing pitcher, Hannah Klebesadel, which turned into runs off the bat of Mackenzie Magro and Sarah Stromwall.
Magro was a force all day for Biola, as she used the environment and her speed to her advantage to go 2-for-2 with two runs and one RBI.
"We noticed yesterday in practice that the dirt was really moist, so we aimed for Mackenzie to hit some slow rollers on the ground," said Coleman. "The dirt deadened the ball and helped her beat out any play. It was effective."
It was in the sixth inning that Magro used this strategy to reach base on an infield single, and she later came around to score Biola's fourth run of the contest off a deep RBI single from Luster.
Once Biola got the lead for DePriest, the Trojans had no chance, as the Eagles' single-season strikeouts record holder set down 12 of her 13 batters faced, six via strikeout.
Biola maintains their position in the winners half of this bracket and faces the winner of this afternoon's game between No. 9 Reinhardt and Georgetown (Ky.). Its next game is set for 8 a.m. on Tuesday morning. Get up-to-the-minute updates at Biola's NAIA Softball Championships Opening Round Tournament Central here.