MANKATO — The Mankato Loyola softball team shook off a bit of a slow start Monday to overpower Cleveland 11-1 in five innings in a season-opening Valley Conference game at the Loyola Field.
“We were outside for about an hour early last week so it was nice to get out there to play in the dirt and fresh air,” Crusaders senior center fielder Jordyn Theuninck said. “We’ve been stuck in the gym way too long, and I like what I saw for our first game.”
Cleveland turned a pair of double plays in the opening two frames to come away with an early 1-0 lead off Loyola senior right-hander Katie Homan. Megan Hobson drew a lead-off walk in the first inning, stole second and third base and scored on Anna Ely’s RBI ground out. Homan allowed only a fourth-inning single to Erika Wobbrock while striking out nine and walking one.
“It took some time for Katie to get her rhythm and for our batters to learn to be patient and keep their weight back,” Loyola coach Kari Koester said. “By the third inning we started clicking and put a good stroke on the ball.
“We made a few mistakes on the bases but we expected some of that since we haven’t been outside yet. What we’re looking for is a lot of energy, a lot of focus and just at getting outside to have some fun.”
Loyola tallied four runs off Clippers’ starter Cassidy Kopet in the bottom of the third behind four hits and two walks. Freshman first baseman Kayla Gross ignited things with a liner up the middle. Freshman shortstop Rae Dose then belted a run-scoring double to deep left field before singles from senior third baseman Aunikah Bastian and sophomore right fielder Kenna Elert capped the surge.