Lake Forest pitchers Jessi Werner and Jenny McTague combined for a dozen strikeouts but the Forester softball team was defeated 6-5 by Berry College at the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division III Leadoff Classic on Sunday.
McTague, a junior, struck out five batters in the first three-and-two-thirds innings before giving way to Werner, a senior. Werner surrendered a home run to the first batter she faced but held the Vikings hitless the rest of the way while recording seven strikeouts.
Berry took the early lead with a pair of runs in the first inning. Lake Forest came back with one in the bottom of the frame on a base hit by senior catcher Alex Hemmer.
The Vikings added to their lead on two-run homers in the third and fourth and still led 6-1 going into the bottom of the seventh.
Junior outfielder Tara Airola doubled to lead off the Foresters' rally in the final inning. Freshman third baseman Alyssa Grimm followed with a walk and a single by freshman outfielder Maria Zepeda loaded the bases. A single to left field by sophomore outfielder Sydney Gardner plated all three runners and chased the Vikings' starting pitcher from the contest. A pair of groundouts moved Gardner around to third base and she came home on a single to center by senior first baseman Sally Snarski, who was thrown out at second trying to stretch the hit to a double.
The loss dropped the Foresters' record on the season to 3-6 while Berry improved to 17-3.
Zepeda batted .368 and had a team-high seven base hits during Lake Forest's five NFCA Leadoff Classic games. Gardner led the team with six runs scored and sophomore shortstop Kat Beall with six runs batted in. Werner was 3-0 with a 0.69 earned run average and 26 strikeouts in 20.1 innings in the circle.
The Foresters' first games after returning to Lake Forest will be a home-opening doubleheader on Saturday, March 26, against Illinois Wesleyan University. First pitch against the nation's 13th-ranked team is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.