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Xavier’s winning formula in Game 1: Slugging and strikeouts
Carley Jonker and Lila Legislador club home runs, Duanna Coyle and Braylen Conlon combine for 16 Ks in a 5-3 win over Marion
CEDAR RAPIDS — Righty, lefty. Starter, closer.
In Duanna Coyle and Braylen Conlon, Cedar Rapids Xavier has an intriguing pitching combo.
“In delivery, speed and spin, they’re a lot different,” Coach Nikki Gahring said.
Here’s a commonality: They both appear capable of missing bats.
Coyle struck out eight batters in four innings, Conlon fanned eight more in three innings, and Xavier opened the softball season with a 5-3 victory over Marion in a non-conference game Monday night at Bob Erusha Field.
Carley Jonker put Xavier (1-0) in front with a two-run home run in her first plate appearance of the season, and the Saints led the rest of the way.
“I’m feeling more confident in the box this year,” said Jonker, a sophomore shortstop. “I’ve moved up in the lineup (to No. 4 in the batting order), and I’m taking more of a role after some seniors graduated.”
Jonker singled and walked in her next two trips to the plate, and scored three runs.
Lila Legislador added a solo home run in the fifth.
“We do have some power,” Gahring said. “We’re focusing on consistency, getting some timely barreled-up hits.”
Coyle exited with a 3-1 lead after four innings. In one stretch from the first inning into the third, she threw 18 consecutive strikes.
In addition to their 16 strikeouts, Coyle and Conlon combined to issue only one walk — and that was an intentional pass that worked precisely as the Saints could have hoped.
With Xavier still holding a 3-1 lead, Marion got a pair of runners to second and third with two outs in the top of the fifth. Gahring elected to give Michaela Goad a free pass to load the bases, then Conlon struck out the following batter to preserve the lead.
Legislador homered in the bottom of the inning, then Alaina Luerkens singled home Taylor Kadolph to make it 5-1.
An error and a Kasia Hahn RBI single brought the Wolves (0-1) within 5-3 in the sixth, but Conlon shut the door with a pair of strikeouts in the seventh.
Both teams collected seven hits. For Marion, Goad rapped two doubles and a single to go with her intentional walk.
Cedar Rapids Xavier 5, Marion 3
At Bob Erusha Field
Marion 000 102 0 — 3 7 2
C.R. Xavier 201 020 x — 5 7 1
Ella Cooper, Mya Chamberlin (5) and Peyton Johnson. Duanna Coyle, Braylen Conlon (5) and Libby Drish, Claire Walter (5). W — Coyle (1-0). L — Cooper (0-1). SV — Conlon (1). HR — CRX: Carley Jonker (1), Lila Legislador (1).