By Michael Battista
The women’s softball team split their last four games with two hard losses to nationally-ranked Rowan University and two impressive wins against New Jersey City University.
The Rowan Profs came into the game on Thursday, April 2, sporting an undefeated record and being a top-10 team in the nation, so the Lions knew they would be in for a challenge on their home turf.
The first game between the two was a close battle which came down to great pitching performances on both sides. Rowan struck first with a run in the second inning, but the College bounced right back in the bottom half thanks to a one-run single off junior Kristen Fitzsimmons.
Freshman Bria Bartsch came in clutch multiple times throughout, helping the Lions take the lead in the third with an RBI triple and continuing in the fourth inning with another run coming off a single, giving the team a 3-1 lead.
Junior pitcher Ashtin Helmer said the team wanted to come out and prove they deserved to be there.
“We came in knowing they were sixth in the nation,” Helmer said. “We just showed we weren’t a team to be walked on.
Still, Rowan’s ranking isn’t for nothing, and the Profs were soon fighting back harder than ever. Between the fifth and seventh innings, they not only kept the Lions from scoring but earned five runs themselves. The College tried to start something in the bottom of the seventh, but ultimately, the final score would be a 6-4 loss for the Lions.
The second game was all Profs, all game — with three runs scored in the first, second and fourth innings and 11 hits altogether, Rowan held the College to only three hits.
No momentum could be scrunched up, as the Profs’ superior pitching dominated to a 9-0 win in only five innings.
Helmer, looking back on both games, said that the Lions are a tough team that needs to reevaluate how they did.
“We need to analyze and reflect on our performance,” she said. “We’re a team that’s going to fight and keep fighting.”
The team had a few days to regroup before they made the trek upstate to Jersey City on Saturday, April 4, to face New Jersey City University.
The Lions were there to fight, and they did just that in the first game. It was an all-around great performance, with Helmer only allowing two hits the entire game and the offense showing up the Gothic Knights.
The first inning started with the Lions scoring four runs off of hits from junior Deanna Utter, sophomore Colleen Phelan and Helmer. But it didn’t end there, as the team continued to gain ground the entire game, including another four-run inning during the fourth.
“The team played together as a whole, our pitchers did a great job and we came out strong offensively,” Bartsch said. “We capitalized on opportunities and took advantage wherever we could.”
Such capitalizing led to a five inning shutout 11-0 win for the Lions, but as usual, there was one more game to be played.
The team got started early at the plate, scoring two runs in the first off of junior Steph Vuono and Utter, and continued hitting throughout. Indeed, the Lions would only come up run-less in just one of seven innings.
Bartsch had a great outing, scoring runs in three separate innings and well as performing terrifically at second base.
The major story of the game, however, was the pitching for the Lions by junior Katie Hourihan, who kept the Gothic Knights hitless the entire seven innings earning herself a no-hitter.
In her opinion, though, that wasn’t that main focus of the game at all.
“I was never worried about the no-hitter late in the game,” she said. “In the later innings I just continued to focus on making every pitch count. When I’m out on the mound, I try to take things one pitch at a time. I knew what pitches had been working well and continued to trust those pitches.”
Her performance, along with the the Lions’ offensive attack, led to another win, this one by the score of 8-0.
“As well as we played today, there is always room to improve,” she said. “Communication is always something we can improve on going forward into the rest of our season.”
The team, now with an 11-5 record, will look toward Tuesday, April 7, when they’ll face Rutgers-Camden at home. Bartsch, looking forward, knows how the team will prepare for these upcoming games.
“We take it one day at a time and keep focusing on getting better as a team, as well as individually,” she said. “No matter who you’re playing, you can never take off any inning, any at bat, any pitch. Today’s wins were great, but it’s time to focus on getting the next ones.”