WINTER PARK, Fla. - - Kylee Gunkel pitched a complete game shutout in her collegiate debut as the Wilmington University softball team started its 2022 season with a split of Rollins on Sunday, winning the opener, 4-0, before dropping the nightcap, 11-1 (5 innings), at the Rollins Softball Stadium at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park.
A freshman from Highland, Maryland, Kylee Gunkel struck out three batters while only allowing eight hits and not giving up a walk in her collegiate debut. She only needed 89 pitches to set down the Tars (4-3) in the opener.
Both teams left five batters on base in the opener, but it was the Wildcats (1-1) that was able to come through when they needed it most. They scored all four runs in the top of the seventh, giving the Wildcats the season opening victory.
The Tars left two on in the first as Gunkel picked up a strikeout to end the threat. Then it was the Wildcats' turn to leave two on in the second, as Kiersten Comer and Gabbie Saucedo walked. Taylor Gillis singled up the middle, but Comer was gunned down at the plate trying to score to end the inning.
Gunkel cruised into the fifth inning when it was time for the Wilmington defense to shine. With two outs and a runner on second, a single went through the right side and the Tars waved the batter around third. But Courtney Dellinger was able to throw a strike to the plate to gun down Rollins' attempt at the plate to keep the game scoreless.
The rally started with one out in the top of the seventh. Gabbie Saucedo singled down the left field line before Taylor Gillis beat out a bunt to put runners on first and second. Now with two outs, Sara Miller singled to load the bases. Transfer Lexi Moore stepped in and doubled to left center, plating two while the throw to the plate got away allowing Sara Miller to score to make it 3-0. Newcomer Tristyn Stewart legged out an infield single to second, bringing in Moore to make it 4-0.
The Tars came up with a two-out bunt single in the bottom of the ninth, but Gunkel picked up her third strikeout of the game to finish off the victory.
Game two starter Haley Downin eased her way through the first two innings of the nightcap, even allowing the Wildcats to score the game's first run, but then the Tars' bats woke up and scored 11 runs combined in the third and fourth innings.
In the top of the third, Gabbie Saucedo was hit by a pitch before being moved up to second on a sacrifice bunt. Adriana Bueno singled and Gillis walked to load the bases. Now with two outs, Tristyn Stewart singled through the left side, giving the Wildcats a 1-0 lead.
The Tars answered in the bottom of the third inning with the long ball though, hitting a one-out three-run homer and a two-out three-run homer in the inning to jump ahead 6-0. Another two-run homer in the fourth put the home team up 10-1 and then a two-out RBI double gave the Tars an 11-1 lead.
The Wildcats threatened to keep the game going in the top of the fifth, but left two runners on without scoring.
Stewart and Saucedo had the two hits for the Wildcats in the game.
The Wildcats play their two lone regional contests of the week on Monday as they play Assumption and Bridgeport at the Spring Games in Winter Haven, Florida. The first pitch against Assumption is scheduled for 10:00 a.m.