BOWLING GREEN, KY (WFIE) - McKenzie Johnson hit a solo home run in each game on Saturday to lead the University of Evansville softball team to a split on the day and a berth in Sunday's championship game of the Hilltopper Spring Fling.
Johnson hit a home run in the opening game of the day, a 3-1 loss to Western Kentucky. She was the difference in a Purple Aces (5-12) win in the second game of the day as UE took down Dayton, 1-0. Jaime Nurrenbern earned the first win of her career while Morgan Florey got the save.
"It was another great day for us. The pitching was outstanding once again, they have been leading us all weekend," Aces head coach Mat Mundell said. "Our defensive has also been outstanding. Offensively, we are hitting it really hard. We were not getting a lot of breaks going our way at the start of the season, but they are finally starting to go our way. We are excited to play for a championship tomorrow."
Western Kentucky struck first with a pair of unearned runs in the first inning. With one runner on, Maddie Bowlds reached on an error and went all the way around the diamond on a second UE error as both runners scored to make it a 2-0 game. The Hilltoppers struck again in the second on an RBI single from Jordan Vorbrink.
The UE offense, who outhit WKU by a 5-4 final, got on the board in the top half of the fifth. McKenzie Johnson led off the frame with a home run to center field, her second long ball of the season. In the top of the sixth, the Aces threatened once again as Eryn Gould was hit by a pitch and Elyse Hickey followed it up with a single to left. UE was unable to push the runners across the plate and went down in order in the seventh with Western Kentucky earning a 3-1 win.
Morgan Florey gave up three runs, but just the single run in the second was earned. She allowed four hits. Shelby Nunn picked up the win for WKU, her ninth of the season.
Game two of the day was a pitcher's duel with neither team getting on the board until the bottom of the fourth. Evansville loaded the bases in the second on an Elyse Hickey double, which was followed by walks from Lindsay Renneisen and Johnson. The Flyers were able to get out of the jam unscathed.
That all changed in the fourth. Just as she did in the first game, McKenzie Johnson homered to center field to give the Aces the lead.
Dayton put its first two runners on in the fifth with each advancing a base on a sacrifice bunt. A stellar defensive play by Bailee Porter helped keep the shutout going. Porter fielded a ground ball to second and threw out a runner at home. From there, UE got out of the inning without giving up a run.
Freshman Jaime Nurrenbern pitched an outstanding five scoreless innings before giving way to Ashleigh Downing and Florey in the sixth. She gave up just four hits and two walks. Downing got two outs in the sixth before Florey shut the door for the remainder of the game as UE earned its second 1-0 win of the weekend over the Flyers.
Tomorrow, the Aces play for the tournament championship at 1:30 p.m. They face the winner of Saturday's WKU/Austin Peay game, which starts at 5:30 p.m.