By Miguel Gonzalez
During the week of March 21, the Lions scrambled to find consistency as they won three games while conceding three losses during their home opener matches at Dr. June Walker Field. In the same week, freshman infielder/outfielder Jess Santelli earned her second New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) rookie player of the week honor for her overall stellar seasonal performance, which includes a .387 batting average with 24 hits. Along with Santelli’s accomplishments, the team itself has had its fair share of success during the beginning of the season.
On the road in Allentown, Pa., the Lions tamed the Muhlenberg College Mules with a two-game doubleheader sweep with scores of 5-1 and 5-3. Tied, 1-1, in the top of the seventh inning, senior infielder Steph Vuono hit a sacrifice bunt to allow senior infielder Deanna Utter to score.
The Lions later extended their lead to 5-1 with runs by sophomore infielder Cathy Drury, Vuono and Santelli. In the midst, sophomore pitcher Sam Platt held the Mules to only one run and five hits.
The Lions soon followed later in the day with a 5-3 victory. Locked in a 3-3 tie in the top of the sixth inning, freshman infielder/outfielder Daniella Marino was able to reach home plate when senior outfielder Kristen Fitzsimmons hit a fly out to right field. The Lions added an additional run in the subsequent inning when freshman outfielder Gaby Bennett scored from a single. Senior pitcher Katie Hourihan finished the match by forcing two groundouts.
Despite the roaring enthusiasm of the home crowd, the Lions were scorched by the Red Dragons from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Cortland in 3-1 and 7-3 losses.
In the first match, the Lions only managed to score one run at the bottom of the first inning when Vuono scored from a single. Meanwhile, the Red Dragons’s junior pitcher Alexandrea Flint and freshman pitcher Sam Van Dorm limited the Lions to four hits.
Afterward, the Lions surrendered another loss to the Red Dragons. With the Lions holding on to a 3-2 lead until the top of the sixth inning, the Red Dragons reclaimed the lead when sophomore catcher Jamie Corradina and sophomore outfielder Allissa De Padua scored off a double.
The Red Dragons followed up with three additional runs in the seventh inning. In the midst of the Red Dragons’s hitting rampage, the Lions were not able to respond with another run.
“We need consistency, from the freshman to the upperclassmen. They can’t give up mental and physical errors in tough situations,” head coach Sally Miller said.
On Saturday, March 26, the Lions split their doubleheader series with the Ithaca College Bombers with a 6-4 loss and a 2-1 win.
With the Lions grasping onto a narrow 1-0 lead, the Bombers burst four hits and six runs to create a 6-1 lead.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, the Lions rallied when Vuono slammed a double and allowed senior catcher Jamie Purcell, sophomore infielder Jess Stevenson and sophomore outfielder Madison Levine to score. Despite the runs, the Lions were not able to tie the game up.
With a three-game losing streak behind them, the Lions captured a close 2-1 victory against the Bombers. Hourihan dominated with eight strikeouts and only surrendered three hits. In the meantime, the Lions were able to pull away with two separate runs in the second and fourth innings.
The Bombers attempted a comeback in the seventh inning when freshman infielder Hannah Anderson blasted a solo home run. Senior pitcher Ashtin Helmer responded with two strikeouts to secure the victory.
“Katie pitched great,” Miller said. “The defense were on their toes. Ashtin came in clutch and shut the bombers down in 17 pitches.”
The Lions continue their home stand with a doubleheader against the Cabrini College Cavaliers on Wednesday, March 26. Next Saturday, April 2, the Lions will face their first NJAC opponent in a doubleheader against the William Paterson University Pioneers.