POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. – The Marist Softball team’s “refuse to lose” attitude was on full display Sunday afternoon as the Red Foxes won a pair of dramatic ball games versus Rider in a home conference doubleheader. Twice late in Game One the Red Foxes crushed two-out home runs and in Game Two, they survived a Rider putting a pair of runners on base in the seventh inning.

In the first game, junior Aly Klemmer (Hamilton, N.J.) tied the game in the bottom of the seventh with a two-run blast, while freshman Nicole Cheek (Simi Valley, Calif.) connected in the bottom of the eighth with a three-run walk-off home run to give Marist the 8-5 decision.

After jumping out to an early 4-1 lead, the Red Foxes held off Rider’s late comeback that saw the Broncs score two runs in the top of the sixth inning, as well as threaten with two on and no outs in the seventh. Junior pitcher Paige Lewis (Temecula, Calif.) and her defense, who fielded 13 ground balls quelled Rider’s attempt at a doubleheader split with an ultimate 4-3 victory.

GAME ONE, MARIST 8 – RIDER 5 (F/8): After a slow start to the game offensively, the visiting Broncs broke through onto the scoreboard in the top of the fourth inning when they took advantage of two base hits, two Marist errors and a wild pitch to plate three runs.

Though Marist had two runners on base in the next at bat, Rider came out unscathed and would respond in the top of the fifth with two more runs to take a 5-0 lead.

After struggling to manufacture any runs with consecutive hits to open the bottom of the fifth, the Red Foxes came back in the sixth and sent eight hitters to the plate. Led by an RBI single up the middle by Janine Lalli (Eastchester, N.Y.), Marist would score three runs in the inning. Taylor Kuzma (Freehold, N.J.) registered the Red Foxes’ other RBI as her ground ball to second scored Kyrsten Van Natta (Maplewood, N.J.).

With her team on the comeback trail down 5-3, Emily Osterhaus (Suwanee, Ga.) retired Rider three-up, three-down for the second straight frame to give Marist one final chance to tie up the game.

Down to regulation’s last strike, Klemmer would come through in the bottom of the seventh with a thrilling two-strike, two-out home run that plated herself and Nicole Cheek, who drew a walk earlier in the inning.

Tied at 5-5 and rolling with positive momentum, the Red Foxes called on some more two-out magic in the bottom of the eighth as consecutive singles by Maureen Duddy (San Mateo, Calif.) and Danielle Koltz (Chenango Bridge, N.Y.) set the stage for Cheek to mash her 10th home run of the year with a long ball drive out over the right-center field fence for the dramatic 8-5 walk-off victory.

For the game, Marist outhit Rider 13-6 with Cheek (3-4), Van Natta (2-4), Lalli (2-4) and Koltz (2-5) all registering multiple hits.

Osterhaus earned her ninth win of the season in the circle with a complete game six-hitter; she allowed five runs (four earned) and struck out eight.

GAME TWO, MARIST 4 – RIDER 3: The Red Foxes kept their hot bats swinging early on in Game Two, as they sent nine batters to the plate in the bottom of the first inning and scored three. Alyssa Zahka (Lexington, Mass.), Klemmer and Lalli came through with RBIs in the frame to give Marist the 3-0 lead.

Rider would immediately respond in its next at bat when Mary Rossi drove in Gina McCool with an RBI double.

In the circle, Lewis settled into a groove during the middle innings of play as just 10 Broncs saw plate appearances over the third, fourth and fifth frames combined.

During this span of strong pitching, Marist was able to expand its lead to 4-1 in the bottom of the fourth when Zahka hit a well-placed two-out infield single that found a no-man’s land spot where Rider was unable to successfully field and fire home to pick off the hustling Nicole Cheek, who sped in for run number four.

This would be an important run as the Broncs scored a pair of runs in the top of the sixth off of a Dana Sensi two-run home run.

With the score 4-3, Rider would challenge in its final offensive inning as the Broncs led off with consecutive singles. Over the next three batters, Lewis and her infield defense would not allow a batted ball out of the infield as Rider would be kept off the scoreboard to make the game final at 4-3.

For the contest, Marist outhit Rider 7-6, with six Red Foxes getting base hits; Zahka went a team-high 2-3 with two RBIs.

Lewis improved to 4-5 on the year with a complete game six-hitter; the junior allowed three earned runs, while striking out two.

For the doubleheader, Marist outhit Rider 20-12 with Cheek (4-8), Zahka (3-7), Lalli (3-7) and  Koltz (3-8) all registering three or more hits versus Rider pitching.

In the circle, Lewis and Osterhau picked up the wins with a combined 3.27 ERA and 10 strikeouts over 15 innings pitched.

With these wins, the Red Foxes (19-21, 7-3 MAAC) moved into first place in the MAAC with two weekends of action left to play before the regular season closes out.

Marist will play a mid-week non-conference doubleheader on the road at Holy Cross on Tuesday, April 23 before facing off with Manhattan (Apr. 27) and Saint Peter’s (Apr. 28) next weekend.