By Miguel Gonzalez
With spring break around the corner, the College’s softball team traveled south to Salisbury, Maryland for their season opener. During the weekend of Saturday, Feb. 24 to Sunday, Feb. 25, the Lions swept Keystone College, 7-1 and 7-3, and split a doubleheader against Salisbury University with a 6-4 victory and a 7-1 loss.
Coming off a rocky 14-17 record last season, the Lions set out for a strong start in 2018.
On Saturday, the Lions won back-to-back games against Salisbury and Keystone. In the first game against Salisbury, the team jumped to a 6-0 lead before Salisbury attempted a comeback.
In the top of the third inning, freshman outfielder Katie Winchock scored the Lions’ first run of the season off a single from sophomore infielder/outfielder Annalise Suitovsky. The team added two more runs when senior outfielder Madison Levine smacked a double to left field, sending Suitovsky and sophomore outfielder Helena Coppola to home plate.
The Lions then followed up with three more runs in the top of the fourth inning. Junior catcher Jess McGuire started off by cracking a home run. The team’s fifth run resulted from the quickness of sophomore infielder Megan Mayernik when she stole third base. Junior outfielder Marissa Pugliese, who was already on third base, took advantage of a throwing error to cross home plate. The team then got its sixth run off a double.
Head coach Sally Miller attributes the team’s high scoring to the players’ baserunning and hitting abilities.
“We had timely hits when runners were in scoring position,” Miller said. “We have been working on situational hitting in practice, trying to get them focused on run production and ways to accomplish and we made great adjustments in the batter box according to what the pitchers were throwing.”
While the Lions’ offense cooled off, Salisbury tried to climb back in the bottom of the seventh inning. Salisbury used a series of singles, doubles and steals to reduce the Lions’ lead to 6-4. Despite Salisbury’s comeback, senior pitcher Sam Platt sealed the Lions first win with a strikeout.
The Lions did not have much time to celebrate their victory, as they returned to the diamond for a game against Keystone College. Unlike the previous game against Salisbury, the Lions were able to secure a large lead thanks to effective pitching by the freshmen duo of pitcher/infielder Alanna Namit and pitcher Eliza Sweet.
The team’s offense proved to be the key to defeating Keystone at the bottom of the fourth inning. With the game tied at one, Levine hit a double to send freshman infielder Elyse Nardozza home, allowing the Lions to take the lead. Levine then benefitted from the sloppy playing of Keystone’s infielders when she scored all the way from first base solely off steals.
The Lions offense kept producing runs into the bottom of the fifth inning. The team took advantage of Keystone’s shaky fielding as they loaded the bases once again from throwing errors. Afterwards, the Lions increased their lead to 6-1 with hits by junior outfielder Gaby Bennett and Suitovsky.
The team later added another run in the bottom of the sixth inning to ultimately win its second game, 7-1.
On Sunday, the Lions collected another win against Keystone before being trampled by Salisbury. The team once again jumped to a 6-1 lead by the top of the fifth inning, but Keystone countered in the next inning when they scored two runs to cut the Lions lead to 6-3.
At the top of the sixth inning, the Lions added another run when Bennett blasted a triple to right field to send Mayernik home. The team then held on to its 7-3 lead for the win.
In the last game of the doubleheader, Salisbury attained redemption.
After three scoreless innings, Salisbury’s offense exploded in the top of the fourth inning. With the Lions down 6-0 with no outs, Namit closed the curtain and struck out three batters consecutively. However, the damage was already done and the Lions ultimately endured a 7-1 loss.
“We didn’t adjust to their pitcher soon enough,” Miller said. The biggest takeaway from that game is hopefully they now see it looking back to that game. They need to trust adjustment info earlier, continue to have confidence in an adjustment. (It’s) something we discuss all the time.”
As the team prepares for the upcoming 2018 Sunkissed Games at Osceola, Florida, Miller plans on training the underclassmen to further adapt to their positions.
“These games are really important in the eyes (of) NCAA rankings,” Miller said. “We will still be trying to get everyone playing time in their key role and allowing players to get more and more confident in whatever role they have on our team. There is certainly no ‘set’ line up.”
Miller also emphasizes on mental and physical preparation.
“We have experienced players and a lot of freshman who are seeing the concentration and mental prep,” Miller said. “The preparation it takes (for) every batter, inning, every game. The Florida trip is a tough trip in that (it’s) a lot of games in a short amount of time and we can’t take any games off. They are tough games mentally and physically and that is what we need to prepare for in the next 12 days.”