As it was, Erin Sireno felt great about her game-winning RBI single in the 10th inning that clinched the Bellarmine University softball team’s doubleheader sweep of Saint Joseph’s College. She got even more excited when she learned of the significance.

Bellarmine made history on Saturday at Knights Field, running its winning streak to a new school record of 12 games with back-to-back wins over the Pumas in Great Lakes Valley Conference play. The first was a homer-fueled 5-2 victory that tied the previous school mark of 11 straight wins set by the 2011 Knights squad, and the history maker was a suspenseful 2-1 triumph in 10 innings that featured a gutsy performance in the circle by Ally Foster and a clutch hit from Sireno to set off a joyous celebration from Coach Renee Hicks’ surging club.

Once the Knights finished mobbing Sireno, they were clued in to the fact they achieved the longest string of wins since fast-pitch softball began at Bellarmine in 1984.

“I don’t think we had any clue. Honestly, I had no idea,” admitted Foster, who collected both wins in the circle. “A school record stays for a while; even after we go it’s still going to be here. That’s kind of a cool feeling.”

That feeling was in no small part due to her performance. The sophomore right-hander entered in the fourth inning of game one and tossed every pitch for the Knights (17-5, 10-0 GLVC) the rest of the day. She threw a staggering 13.2 innings, including all 10 in the second game, and allowed a mere one run as Bellarmine remained perfect in league play.

“I could keep going if I had to,” Foster said, before chuckling and adding, “I’m glad Erin came through on that one.”

Once the bottom of the 10th inning rolled around in game two, the last run scored by either team was hard to recall. Saint Joseph’s (7-11, 4-4) scored its only run in the second on a solo homer by first baseman Audra Rains, and Bellarmine posted its lone run before extra innings on an RBI single by junior catcher Scarlett Powers in the third.

The bottom of the 10th inning started unceremoniously for the Knights with two quick outs. Powers, who terrorized the Pumas, kept Bellarmine alive in the frame by rifling a single to center field for her third hit in the tail end. After senior first baseman Abby Lenhart was hit by a pitch, Sireno stepped into the box against junior right-hander Jessica Cates, who matched Foster with one scoreless inning after another.

At that point, Sireno was 1 for 4 but had made solid contact twice, including a double off the wall in left center. Once again she hit a pitch from Cates (3-2) squarely, lining the ball to center. Saint Joseph’s Kylie Weeks raced in and nearly made a spectacular diving catch, but the ball sank just beneath her glove and Powers raced around third with the winning run in plenty of time before the throw home.

“I don’t remember the ball coming in towards me. I just swung,” Sireno said. “It felt like it was going (to drop in), but as soon as I saw her dive, my heart dropped.”

The run-deficient second game differed from an opener which featured the Knights winning fairly comfortably despite being outhit 9-3. That was directly attributed to all three hits for Bellarmine being home runs.

Junior third baseman Kelsey Hicks began the power display in the second inning against Saint Joseph’s starter Megan Schwartzengraber (2-6) when she pounded a two-out, two-run shot to right center. It was the second home run of the season for Hicks and gave Bellarmine a 2-0 lead.

After the Pumas scored twice in the fourth inning to tie it, the Knights flexed their muscle again with back-to-back homers in the fifth. Freshman shortstop Erica Knollman returned the lead to Bellarmine by cranking a two-run shot to left center, and Powers immediately followed by whistling a drive that cleared the fence in left in a hurry. Knollman has now gone deep twice this season while Powers boosted her long-ball total to five.

Foster relieved Bellarmine junior left-hander Alicia Miller with one out in the fourth and promptly peeled off 11 straight outs to finish game one. She struck out the side in the sixth and recorded seven strikeouts in just 3.2 innings pitched.

While she wasn’t as dominant in the second game, Foster (6-2) showed plenty of grit by wiggling out of several jams. The Pumas put the leadoff batter on three of the first six innings – including the first two on in the third and sixth – but each time Foster came out unscathed. The only damage done by Saint Joseph’s came with one out in the second, when Rains clubbed her second home run of the year.

Foster had a stretch from the third through fifth innings where she sat down nine straight batters. A double-play lineout that featured a terrific diving catch by Bellarmine freshman second baseman Olivia Russell closed out the sixth, and Foster allowed one runner apiece to reach base in the eighth and ninth before firing a perfect 10th. Her final two outs were strikeouts giving her 10 for game two, and her ERA dropped to a miniscule 0.88.

In addition to a 3 for 5 outing by Powers in the tail end, Sireno, freshman rightfielder Rachel Fox and Russell tallied two hits apiece.

After the history making day, Sireno reflected on the ingredients to the success the Knights hope to sustain.

“This is my fourth year,” she said, “and this is the best group I’ve ever played with. We’re all so positive and work together. If one person gets down, we pick them up real quick.”

Article published 3/22/14