In the opening contest of the 2021 Missouri Valley Conference Championship, the University of Evansville softball team fell to Loyola by a 3-1 final at Cooper Stadium.
UE (23-22) senior Eryn Gould went 1-2 in the contest with two walks. Those walks helped her secure a new program record with 98 in her career. That passed Nicole Farris’ total of 97, which was set in 1997. She also officially set the program records for single season batting (.418) and on-base percentage (.566). Gould is just the second Evansville player to bat .400 in a season.
Gould led the bottom of the first off with the 97th walk of her career, tying the program record. Loyola (13-28) was the first to find the scoreboard in the top half of the second. After stranding two runners in the opening frame, Teagan Sopczak led the second off with a solo home run to make it a 1-0 game.
Evansville put two runners on in the second when Alyssa Barela recorded the Aces first hit of the day before Hannah Wood reached on a walk before LUC pitcher Sydney Ruggles escaped unscathed. The Ramblers made a run of their own in the third, but it was the arm of Gould that saved a run. With a runner on second, Sopczak singled to right, but Gould’s quick defense forced Loyola to hold the runner at third before an Izzy Vetter strikeout ended the threat.
Jenna Lis tied the game up in the third with an RBI single. Her hit scored Katie McLean, who reached on a fielder’s choice earlier in the inning. Gould looked like she was about to give the Aces the lead, hitting a long fly ball to the warning track. In the top half of the sixth, Allyson Ivey put the Ramblers in front with a 2-run shot to center field.
Walks by Haley Woolf and Marah Wood set UE up in the bottom of the inning, but Ruggles once again got out of the jam. Gould earned her second free pass of the game in the seventh, breaking the Aces career record. McLean reached on a hit to put two on base, but UE could not get the big hit to tie the game and fell by the 3-1 final.
Loyola finished with eight hits on the day, led by a 3-for-3 performance by Sopczak. Evansville finished with five hits. Sydney Ruggles picked up her seventh win of the season, going the entire distance. Vetter took the loss, allowing three runs in six innings of work. She struck out nine batters.
With a 23-22 mark, the program clinches its second winning season in a row following a 12-11 mark in 2020.