Kathy Leitke Gets 100 at Home; WMU Softball Sweeps Oakland
Kalamazoo, Mich. - Head coach Kathy Leitke becomes only second WMU softball coach to reach 100 home wins with sweep of Oakland at Fran Ebert Field. The Broncos took care of the Golden Grizzlies, 6-2 and 1-0, to extend their home win streak to 13 games.
Leitke joins Kim Worden (182) as one of only two Bronco coaches to reach the century mark in wins at WMU's home venue and in the process also surpass the venue's namesake in another category. Leitke now has 271 career wins at WMU, passing the late, great Fran Ebert (270). Leitke is now behind only Worden for softbal wins at Western Michigan with the mark set at 321.
"Most importantly, I feel very blessed to have had the student-athletes we have had and the teams we have had during my time at Western Michigan. These young women have pride in winning and winning at home," said Leitke after Tuesday's games.
"I appreciate being mentioned along with [Kim] Worden and [Fran] Ebert because I have so much respect for them. The numbers and wins mean we are building on what we accomplished last season and are looking forward to repeating in 2012."
Leitke's 271 career wins at WMU rank ninth among Bronco coaches independent of sport.
WMU fell behind in game one after Oakland's Erica Polidori led off the fourth inning with her fifth home run of the season. The Broncos wasted no time answering. In the home half of the inning, Tara Buchanan doubled to right center, scoring pinch runner Bri Russell. Gracie Barstad drove in the second run of the inning on a base hit to center field, plating Buchanan from second.
The Broncos opened the game up in the fifth with Lesy Schalk and Megan Stamm earning a pinch hit walk and hit to put a pair of runners on for Mackenzie Shepeck who doubled to left center, driving in WMU's third and eventual game-winning run. Elisha Handshoe ripped a single back up the middle to score a pair of runs and give the Broncos a 5-1 lead.
Oakland tacked on a second run in the sixth but WMU answered immediately with Diana Patterson's third home run of the season.
Meredith Whitney earned her ninth win this season and now has 581 career strikeouts, 13 away from breaking the career record held by Bonni Kinne (1980-84). Shepeck worked three innings to earn her first career save, striking out three.
Game two was a little more nip and tuck as the Broncos clawed their way for a 1-0 win behind the pitching of Becca Shemberger and Shepeck.
Shemberger picked up her fourth win of the season, evening her record on the strength of 118 pitches and three strikeouts. The Portage, Mich., native pitched out of jams in the second, fourth and sixth innings when Oakland left three, two and two runners on base, respectively.
"I still need to work on getting ahead in counts and minimizing the walks I allow," said Shemberger. "I threw a lot of pitches today and working on these situations in non-conference play will help as we get further into the conference schedule."
WMU's offense came off the bat of Barstad in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Broncos loaded the bases with no outs thanks to a Schalk pinch-hit single, a Christina Pigozzi infield single and a fielder's choice by Whitney. No runs crossed the plate until there was one out and Barstad lifted the ball deep enough to center field to score Pigozzi.
Shepeck came in to pitch the seventh, retiring the Golden Grizzlies in order to earn her second save of the day.
Western Michigan travels to Central Michigan for a doubleheader on Friday and then to Eastern Michigan for a two-game set on Saturday and Sunday.