SALEM, Va. – Makenzie Amend threw the first no-hitter in Mountain East Conference Tournament history and the West Liberty softball team breezed to a pair of shutout wins on Friday at the James I. Moyer Complex.
Coach Herb Minch’s defending tournament champion Hilltoppers (32-14) blanked West Virginia Wesleyan, 3-0, behind Amend’s pitching gem in the tourney opener before shutting out Fairmont State, 5-0, in a winner’s bracket semifinal on Friday night.
West Liberty advances to take on MEC South Division champion West Virginia State (28-12) in Saturday’s 2 p.m. winner’s bracket final. The Yellow Jackets defeated Notre Dame (Ohio), 4-1, and Frostburg State, 5-2, on Friday to remain unbeaten in the double-elimination tournament.
The Hilltoppers didn’t lose a game in sweeping to the 2019 MEC Tournament championship and got their title defense off to a flying start with Amend in the circle for Friday’s lid-lifter.
The reigning MEC Pitcher of the Year struck out the side in the top of the first inning and never looked back on her way to carving out a spot in the MEC record book.
Amend went on to strike out 11 Bobcats and didn’t allow a runner past first base in her masterful performance. Wesleyan’s only two baserunners came on a hit-by-pitch in the top of the second and a two-out walk in the top of the sixth.
Junior centerfielder Katie Beeman saved the no-hitter in the top of the seventh when the Bobcats’ Kennedy Cowart blooped a soft fly ball just over the shortstop’s head only to see Beeman come out of nowhere with a diving catch. Amend got the final two outs on a popup and strikeout.
Junior catcher Kat Donzella provided all the offense her battery-mate needed, breaking up a scoreless tie with a solo home run in the top of the fifth and putting the game out of reach with a two-out, two-run double in the sixth.
Honored as the MEC Player of the Year on Thursday, Donzella came up a triple shy of the cycle with a single, double and home run. Beeman and Laral Saunders each added a pair of base knocks while Allie Cook chimed in with a double.
In the second game, Annie Paterson and Riley Bennington combined on a 6-hit shutout and the WLU offense delivered more than enough support.
Riley Conkle got things started for the Black and Gold with a two-out, two-run double off the right field fence in the bottom of the second. Sidney Little brought Beeman sprinting home from third with a bunt single in the bottom of the third and Beeman put an exclamation point on the win with a two-run opposite-field home run in the fifth.
Paterson worked the first five innings to get the win, striking out seven while giving up just three hits and no walks. Bennington kept the Falcons off the board over the final two innings to complete the shutout. Little finished with two singles and an RBI while Connor Assif also had a pair of base hits.
Mountain East Conference Tournament
(at Salem, Va.)
West Liberty 3, W.Va. Wesleyan 0
W.Va. Wesleyan 000 000 0 – 0 0 2
West Liberty 000 012 x – 3 8 0
WVW: O’Shields lp (3SO, 0W) and Posey.
WLU: Amend wp (11SO, 1W) and Donzella. Donzella HR, D, 3rbi; Beeman 2S; Saunders 2S; Cook D
West Liberty 5, Fairmont State 0
Fairmont State 000 000 0 – 0 6 1
West Liberty 021 020 0 – 5 7 0
FSU: Chastain lp (4SO, 3W), Cosgrove (5) (0SO, 0W) and Baughman. McDaniel D, S; Moyer 2S; Schweitzer D
WLU: Paterson wp (7SO, 0W), Bennington (6) (3SO, 1W) and Donzella. Little 2S, rbi; Assif 2S; Beeman HR, 2rbi; Conkle D, 2rbi