Youngstown, Ohio -- The Youngstown State softball team used three big innings and needed an outstanding relief appearance from freshman Caitlyn Minney to gain a split against Valparaiso in the Horizon League opening weekend, Saturday, at the YSU Softball Complex. The Penguins lost game one, 7-4, and won the nightcap, 12-9.
With the split, the Penguins improve to 13-10 overall and 1-1 in the Horizon League while Valparaiso moves to 6-19 overall and 1-1 in the league.
Minney pitched 3.2 innings of scoreless relief allowing just two hits and striking out five to collect her first career victory.
Trailing 9-7, the Penguins answered Valparaiso's five-run fourth inning with one of their own.
Miranda Castiglione led off the bottom of the fourth with a bunt single and freshman Sarah Dowd walked to lead off the frame. After senior Sarah Ingalls reached on an error to load the bases, Smallcomb single up the middle scored Castiglione and Dowd to tie the game at 9-9.
Freshman Darcella Blakey doubled to left-center field to score Ingalls and Smallcomb with the go-ahead runs, and Ewing's two-out single brought in Blakey to put the Penguins up 12-9.
Minney pitched herself out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the top of the fifth and retired the final five batters she faced in the sixth and seventh innings.
After giving up four runs in the top of the first inning, Haslett helped her own cause with her second home run of the season in the bottom of the second inning to get YSU within one, 4-3.
The Penguins used a four-run third inning to take a 7-4 lead. Dowd led off the frame with a walk and senior Ingalls reached on a throwing error on a sacrifice bunt attempt. Smallcomb's double to left-center field scored Dowd and senior Samantha Snodgrass' sacrifice fly plated Ingalls.
After a walk to Haslett and a strikeout, Knight drilled a two-run double to center field scoring Smallcomb and Haslett to the three-run lead.
In the opener, the Crusaders jumped out to 4-0 lead after scoring twice in the top of first and twice in the fifth inning.
Dowd knotted the game at 4-4 with the 11th grand slam in school history in the bottom half of the fifth.
The Crusaders, though, rallied for three runs in the top half of the seventh to escape with the 7-4 victory.
Ewing went 3-for-4 while Ingalls and Smallcomb each went 2-for-4
The Penguins and Crusaders series finale on Sunday has been cancelled to due cold temperatures. YSU is slated to visit Akron, Tuesday, March 25, at 3 p.m.