Ashland University's softball team played 20 games to begin the 2018 season before having its home opener on Saturday (March 31) at Brookside Park.
The Eagles took a little time to get readjusted to their home confines, but managed a split against new Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference rival Purdue Northwest – losing 9-4 in Game 1 and winning 8-1 in Game 2.
"After all of the weather that we've had, and the ups and downs of trying to figure out our schedule, it was nice to finally be at home and get on our home field," said first-year head coach Emlyn Knerem, who picked up her first home win and first GLIAC victory in Game 2.
Ashland is 11-11 overall and 1-3 in the GLIAC, while the Pride is 17-12, 7-5.
Game 1 started ominously with a solo home run by Purdue Northwest's Kyleigh Payne, the Pride's leading hitter. Taylor Mendenhall added a two-out RBI single, and PNW led 2-0 after a half-inning.
Ashland re-knotted the game in the bottom of the second when, with two outs, junior first baseman Kylie Asmus took an outside pitch to left field for a two-run double. Freshman left fielder Emma Lawson followed in the next at-bat with an RBI single to give the Eagles a 3-2 advantage.
Purdue Northwest tied the game at 3 with two outs in the top of the fifth when Zoee Anderson hit a solo home run to left-center field. The Pride re-took the lead later in the fifth on Samantha Miller's RBI double down the left-field line.
It didn't take long for the Eagles to tie the game once more, as junior designated player Katie Manahan roped an RBI double in the bottom of the fifth to make it a 4-4 contest.
The Pride took a 6-4 lead in the top of the sixth on a two-run homer from Tessa Steffens, then added three more runs in the same inning on an RBI double by Taylor Kotzo, two AU throwing errors and a solo home run from Miller.
Of Ashland's 11 hits, sophomore right fielder Bree Gill had three (3-for-4), while Asmus and Lawson each went 2-for-4. Senior pitcher Paige McMenemy (6-4) allowed nine hits, five runs and three walks and struck out eight in 6 1/3 innings.
Miller got the Pride offense going in Game 2 with a two-out RBI double in the top of the first. The Eagles, however, continued the doubleheader's back-and-forth nature thanks to Manahan, who launched a two-run homer, her first as an Eagle, in the bottom of the opening frame.
Lawson then rapped her first round-tripper as an Eagle in the bottom of the third, a solo shot which put Ashland ahead 3-1. Manahan added a run-scoring single, and the Eagles led 4-1 after three innings.
Manahan's big day continued in the bottom of the fifth with a two-run double down the right-field line. Asmus added a two-run homer to left center in the bottom of the sixth.
Manahan finished the nightcap at 3-for-4 with a double, home run and five RBIs. Lawson was 3-for-4 with a double, homer, two runs scored and an RBI, and junior third baseman Paige Summers was 3-for-3 with a double and three runs scored.
Junior pitcher Hannah Stroe (3-5) authored a complete-game seven-hitter, allowing a run and two walks and striking out seven.
"It was really nice that we got to get out here," Stroe said. "They're a good hitting team."
"She did a really good job of mixing pitches and hitting her locations," said Knerem of Stroe.
With six RBIs in the twinbill, Manahan is second on the team with 13 RBIs in 2018 – in just 27 at-bats.
"The hitting today was just amazing," Manahan said, as the Eagles had 23 hits in the doubledip - 10 for extra bases. "These games were a good push for us for the rest of the season."
"That's what we've been looking for with Katie," Knerem said. "She's been doing her job, so it's been great."
UP NEXT: April will be a busy one for the Eagles – 14 scheduled doubleheaders, starting with Tuesday (April 3) at Ferris State.
"That's been some of our issue is just not playing regularly," Knerem said. "It's going to be a long month, and it's going to be tough, but it's a grind. The season's a grind, and the girls are used to it."