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Marietta College’s Taylor Watts slides safely into third base during a college football game against Muskingum Wednesday at Marietta Stadium. (Photo by Kerry Patrick)

The Marietta College pitching staff kept the coaching staff on pins and needles.

When all was said and done, the Pioneer softball team managed to split a two-header in the Ohio Athletic Conference with Muskingum on Wednesday afternoon on the campus of Marietta College.

After trailing 7-4 in the first game, Marietta College cruised to victory.

In Game 2, Marietta took a 6-3 lead in the seventh, and Pioneer relief pitcher Breanna Zirkle put out the first two batters before the next five batters reached base safely with a pair of hits followed by three straight bases on balls.

Between Zirkle and Jillian Middleton, Marietta’s third reliever, they couldn’t get that final.

Starting pitcher Rachel Kazmirski, who pitched the first two innings of the game, came back on the mound with Muskie on every base, two outs, and the Pioneers held on to a 6-5 lead. The first and only batter Kazmirsky faced as reliever was Haley Hawk, who tapped a no-hitter to third base. Fielder touched the bag for force and a two-header split.

At the start of the day, Muskingum and Marietta were grouped into a five-way match for first place. The Pioneers return to the league on Friday for the final regular season game at home against John Carroll starting at 3 p.m

Both teams move to 8-4 in the OAC.

“Separation from Muskingum is a successful day,” MC softball coach Jane Castle said after her soccer club closed out the day with an overall record of 18-10. “They’re a decent team, a high-caliber team, so a split with them is a good day. Do we want a sweep? Of course, we want to sweep people, but a split with them wouldn’t hurt us in the OAC standings.”

Even though she didn’t make a decision, Zirkle was the hot thrower who gave Marietta a steady effort. After giving the Pioneers two scoreless innings in the opener, Zirkle 4 lasted 2-3 innings on the night’s cup. After allowing a base hit for the first batter it faced, the next 14 Muskies in a row retired it.

“Breanna was amazing,” Castle said. “She is such a hard working person in our office. She is always ready for any opportunities she gets.

“We talk to our shooters about getting out and doing their job, and that’s what Breanna did.”

Marietta’s bat powerhouse ran throughout both games. Muskingum opened the scoring in Game 1 with the third of five innings, but the Pioneers answered with four in the fifth inning.

During this frame, Middleton—an alumnus of Marietta High School—recorded her second double of the game and one RBI. Jess Brown followed it up with a three-run homer heading into the footballs in right center field—the fourth by the Biggers of the season.

The score remained 5-4 in favor of Muskingum until the seventh inning. The Muskies added a pair of insurances on Cara Taylor’s two-run triple. The Waterford High School freshman finished the day 4-for-6 with two runs scored and three RBIs.

In the second game, Middleton’s single homer—her fifth long ball of the season—put Marietta up 1–0.

After Muskingum answered with three runs in the third, the Pioneers got back to work in the fifth with three runs of their own. Middleton’s third double of the day cut the lead to 3-2 and kept the Browns on the line moving with a two-run single to give her team the lead to stay at 4-3.

Marietta was caught for two runs in the sixth inning. Kazmirski drove in her ninth home run. Then, Camryn Campbell hit a left fielder’s header for the team’s first hat-trick of the season. Campbell later scored on Hayley Mott’s sacrifice fly.

Rachel Kazmirski, Jillian Middleton, Jess Brown – they know what kind of hitters they are. Castle said. “They’re confident in themselves and look forward to being able to swing big. Even when they don’t hit that well, they still manage to stay on base. They’ve really developed and matured as hitters.”

“And to get them up to speed with Camryn Campbell, Shelby Metzger, Taylor Watts – there are a lot of different people who bring them up to speed.”

Contact Kerry Patrick at [email protected]

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