ALTON — Monday began on a high note for the East Alton-Wood River Oilers at Gordon Moore Park, but it ended on a very low one.
After taking a 1-0 lead on Prairie State Conference rival Marquette Catholic, the Oilers eventually lost 8-4. They also lost their ace southpaw pitcher, SIUE bound Victoria Beachum, when she was hit by a pitch in the right elbow during the sixth inning. Beachum immediately left the game and headed to the hospital for X-rays. EA-WR also lost center fielder and leadoff hitter Morgan Moxey to a leg injury when she legged out a third-inning bunt single.
Marquette improved to 17-4 and 4-0 in the PSC with the win — its 10th straight — while EA-WR sank to 9-15 and 2-1 on the league slate. The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for the Oilers.
“First of all I lost my best player on offense, center fielder, leadoff hitter, fastest girl on the team (Moxey),” EA-WR head coach Dana Emerick said. “It appears to be a muscle problem in her leg. We're waiting to hear something on her. Then Tori obviously took a fastball to the elbow, hard inside pitch and we haven't heard anything on her.”
Beachum made her way to first after being plunked, holding her arm on the jog down and then quickly left the field in tears, dashing to the hospital with ice on her elbow.
A noticeably shaken Emerick was muttering words under his breath about Beachum being hit and having to leave from the third base coach's box. Explorers' freshman pitcher Meghan Schorman was also noticeably upset from hitting Beachum and the Marquette bench responded to Emerick's chatter, prompting a stoppage in play.
Emerick and Marquette head coach Dan Weidman met in front of the dugout with the home plate umpire and had a short discussion. It also got chippy between the Oiler dugout and Marquette fans over the situation, but nothing materialized and play resumed with no ejections.
Emerick denied comment on the situation after the game, but Weidman chalked it up to the intensity of the moment and worry over Beachum's injury.
“I just think both teams are competitive and it would have been the same thing if our pitcher would have gotten hit, or any of our players got hit, we'd be a little ticked off too, but hopefully everybody realizes it wasn't intentional,” Weidman said. “Meghan's a great kid and she was upset she hit her. She's a pitcher and she knows what it's like to pitch and be hit by a pitch. It got a little heated, but Dana and I have been friends for a long time, our families have known each other for a long time, so we just shook hands and said, 'Let's play ball.'”
Schorman was adamant after the game that hitting Beachum was not intentional.
“I didn't hit her on purpose,” Schorman said. “It rattled me a little bit, but I got out of it. I want (Beachum) to come back and I hope everything is OK.”
It was a shame that the game turned south, because it was well played on both sides through the first four innings.
EA-WR struck first when Haley Shewmake picked up an infield single with one out in the first. Shewmake stole second and went to third on a ground out and scored on a RBI hit by Emme Flanigan to make it 1-0 in favor of the Oilers.
Schorman said the early deficit didn't rattle the Explorers though.
“Our team battles back,” Schorman said. “We don't get down on ourselves much. We like to come back and we like to win.”
Marquette finally got to Beachum in the fourth. Sam Harshbarger led off with a single and Schorman added a one-out double on a flare to right field. A wild pitch allowed Harshbarger to score and tie it at 1-1. Grace Frost then cracked a double to chase home Schorman and stake the Explorers to a 2-1 lead.
Then the fifth came and things began to turn sour for the Oilers.
A double play erased a leadoff hit by Peyton Young in the top of the fifth and then in the bottom of the fifth the EA-WR defense behind Beachum faltered. The Oilers committed three errors leading to six runs, five unearned for the Explorers, slingshotting them in front 8-1.
Emerick said errors have been an Achilles' Heel for EA-WR on the season.
“Twenty-one errors in our last four games,” Emerick said. “That was my message to the girls after the game and that's really all I had to say to them. Every girl on the field for me plays summer ball, winter workouts, year round ball, so it's just lack of concentration. We just keep shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Marquette sent 11 girls to the plate in the fifth, highlighted by singles from Tess Eberlin, Harshbarger, Frost, Carly Schaber and Megan McClard. Harshbarger, Megan Wittich, Frost and McClard had RBIs in the inning.
“Both pitchers were throwing the ball well early and then we had that one big inning and kind of put things away,” Weidman said. “It was a big conference win for us and the kids have been great at battling back when they're behind.”
The Oilers scratched across three runs in the top of the sixth following the drama surrounding Beachum being hit. Heather Martin picked up a RBI single and Kaleigh Young blasted a two-run triple to center to cut EA-WR's deficit to 8-4.
Young then came on in relief of Beachum, retiring the Explorers 1-2-3, but the Oilers were unable to get to Schorman again in the seventh. A leadoff hit by Keri Westbrook was squandered when Schorman struck out the side to end the game.
Securing their 10th straight wins and locking down at least a share of the PSC title with only conference nemesis Nokomis remaining on the schedule at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday have things looking good for the Explorers.
“I feel like we're going out there with the mindset that every game is going to be our last game and we want to win and that's what we're going to do,” said Schorman.
But while expectations are high for the hot-handed Explorers, hopes are fading for the struggling Oilers.
They will now await to see if their all-time leader in strikeouts will return this season, or if they will forge ahead without her. A scuffling defense and inconsistency have left EA-WR six games under .500 through Monday already. Emerick admitted he's just there to support his players and try and get them over the hump and that's what he will continue to do the remainder of the season.
“I don’t want to make it about me,” Emerick said. “I go through what every coach goes through. I’m here for these girls and I want these girls to have success and have something to feel good about themselves. When I say I’m frustrated, it’s because of that.”
The Oilers return to action at 4:15 p.m. Tuesday at home against Highland.
MARQUETTE 8, EA-WR 4
EA-WR 1 0 0 0 0 3 0 — 4 9 3
Marquette 0 0 0 2 6 0 X — 8 10 2
MARQUETE (17-4, 4-0) — Tess Eberlin 1-4, Sam Harshbarger 3-4 RBI, Megan Wittich 0-3 SAC RBI, Meghan Schorman 1-3 2B, Grace Frost 2-3 2B 2 RBIs, Kalie Buecker 1-3, Carly Schaber 1-1, Megan McClard 1-2 BB RBI, Emma Taylor 0-2 SAC.
WP — Schorman 7.0IP 9H 4R 4ER 0BB 11K 2HBP
EA-WR (9-15, 2-1) — Morgan Moxey 1-3, Kari Westbrook 1-1, Haley Shewmake 1-3 SB SAC, Victoria Beachum 0-2 HBP, Emme Flanigan 1-4 RBI, Carly Campbell 2-3, Courtney Beneke 0-2 HBP, Heather Martin 1-3 RBI, Kaleigh Young 1-3 3B 2 RBIs, Peyton Young 1-3.
LP — Beachum 5.0IP 10H 8R 3ER 1BB 8K
Kaleigh Young 1.0IP 0H 0R 0ER 0BB 0K