Freshman Riley Bennington hurled a 4-hit shutout as the West Liberty University softball team swept a doubleheader from UVa-Wise here Thursday in a battle of regionally-ranked Mountain East Conference foes.
Coach Herb Minch’s Hilltoppers (29-16, 21-5) powered their way to a 5-2 win against the Cavaliers (20-21, 14-12) in the opener before riding Bennington’s strong right arm to a 3-0 whitewash in the finale at a rainy WLU Softball Complex.
The hosts came into the contest ranked No. 4 in the region for the second consecutive week while UVa-Wise made its regional ranking debut earlier this week at No. 10. The sweep also pulled the Black and Gold into a tie with No. 25-ranked Shepherd for first place in the MEC North.
Bennington was in control throughout the second game, carrying a no-hitter into the fourth inning before giving up one single in each of her last four frames. She finished with seven strikeouts and three walks.
West Liberty scored all of its runs in the third inning when the Black and Gold combined three hits and a walk with a pair of UVa-Wise errors to send three runners across the plate. A 2-run single by Audrey Meloun keyed the big inning.
The Hilltoppers managed only four singles themselves in the cool and damp conditions. Freshman Anna Paterson, the winning pitcher in Game One, had two of WLU’s four hits.
Paterson teamed with Taylor Bonnett to hold the Cavaliers to just three hits in the first game. Paterson worked the first 5 1/3 innings for the win as the freshman duo combined for 10 strikeouts and three walks.
Katie Beeman put West Liberty on the board first with a two-run single in the bottom of the third and the Hilltoppers doubled the lead in the bottom of the fourth with an RBI double by Kelly Mullins and a fielder’s choice off the bat of Kate Meloun.
Beeman put the game out of reach in the fifth when she launched a solo home run deep over the right field fence.
Following the game, the Mountain East Conference announced some schedule changes involving the Hilltoppers. West Liberty is now idle on Friday and will play a doubleheader at Notre Dame on Saturday, with games at 1 and 3 p.m. The Hilltoppers close out their regular season schedule on Sunday with a 1 p.m. twinbill at Urbana.