Morgan Ledbetter Breaks EC Single-Season HR Record as Red Devils Make History

Photo courtesy of Summer Inselmann.
Photo courtesy of Summer Inselmann.

EUREKA — Morgan Ledbetter (Hanna City, Ill./Elmwood) tied EC assistant coach Kelli Dunne's single-season program home run record with what ended up being a game-winning two-run blast in the sixth inning of Game 1 against Lincoln on Tuesday.

Then, in Game 2, she broke it, and the Red Devils swept their way to history.

With Ledbetter mashing at the plate, EC's pitchers dealing in the circle and the defense staying solid behind them, the Red Devils bested Lincoln 2-0 and 4-3 to improve to 20-6 on the season.

That marks the first time in program history that EC softball has recorded four straight 20-win seasons.

EC Hall of Fame coach Karen Sweitzer's team's previously ripped off three straight from 1994 to 1996, Cathy Compton's teams did the same from 1988 to 1990 and current EC coach Debi Neff's teams notched 20 wins in five out of her seven years at the helm, but never four consecutively until now.

The Red Devils have a chance to win up to four more in the regular season, and every one could be needed to stay standing in a contentious St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference race. They're currently tied for fourth in the league with Iowa Wesleyan with a 10-4 mark in the conference. Spalding leads at 8-2, followed by Greenville (13-5) and Westminster (13-5). Only the top four squads make the tournament.

EC will look to take care of business at Principia (1-15) on Friday in a doubleheader that will start at 5:30. Then, on Sunday, the maroon and gold will host current league leader Spalding (8-2) in a noon doubleheader at Sweitzer Field.

Game 1: Eureka 2, Lincoln 0

EC ace Erin Smith (Dunlap, Ill./Dunlap) improved to 11-3 on the season with a complete-game, two-hitter at Sweitzer Field. The junior struck out a season-high seven batters and didn't walk a single one for the sixth time this spring, throwing 66 strikes in 96 pitches over seven innings.

Her counterpart, Olivia Sanders, also had a strong showing, limiting EC to two runs on seven hits in six innings of work while striking out five.  At the plate, the Red Devils put runners on in every inning except for the first, but they weren't able to capitalize until Ledbetter's first bomb of the day in the sixth.

After Morgan Osborn (Washington, Ill./Washington) led off the frame off with a single through the left side, the junior transfer from Culver-Stockton slammed a two-run long ball to straightaway center. It was her 10th home run of the season.

After that, Smith returned to the circle in the seventh and retired the side to preserve the win.

Ledbetter had three of the Red Devils' seven hits. Osborn delivered the table-setting leadoff single, Raelyn Payne (Lexington, Ill./Lexington) doubled and Klaire Wilmot (La Salle, Ill./La Salle-Peru) contributed a pair of base hits as well.

Game 2:  Eureka 4, Lincoln 3

In Game 2, Lincoln held an early 1-0 lead after picking up an unearned run in the first inning, but Ledbetter changed that with a towering, history-setting two-run homer to left-center in the bottom half.

Two innings later, she put the Red Devils ahead again. After Lincoln's Kerstin Osborn knocked an RBI single in the top of the third, it was Ledbetter who placed a two-run double to right field with two on and two out in the bottom half.

That gave EC a 4-2 advantage, and it stayed that way until Brooke Friesner's RBI single up the middle made it a one-run game with two outs in the seventh inning. EC pitcher Sidney Wightman got Kerstin Osborne to ground out in the next-at bat to end the game.

Wightman notched her eighth victory of the season, holding Lincoln to two earned runs on nine hits and zero walks. It was her fourth time to not concede a walk and first in a complete-game performance.

Ledbetter finished the day 5-for-6 with two home runs, a double and six RBIs. She is now the only Red Devil to ever record 11 home runs in a single season, surpassing Dunne, who had 10 dingers in 2013.

Payne went 2-for-3, doubled and scored twice, while Allison Cagley (Fairbury, Ill./Prairie Central) added a single.