Lions earn national ranking, down Mules in doubleheader

The College’s softball team improved to 15-6 on the season by handily defeating the Mules of Muhlenberg College in both games of a doubleheader this past Thursday at Armstrong Field.

In the first game of the day, the Lions shut out the Mules 9-0. As they have done all season, the Lions jumped out to an early lead, giving senior pitcher Jess Donohue six runs of support in the first inning to help her win her eighth consecutive game. She shut down the Mules in four innings of work, scattering four hits while striking out four.

“We did a great job of jumping on them early,” Donohue said. “We came out and shut them down from the very beginning and just kept going.”

The Lions scored early and often as they took advantage of a Muhlenberg error by cranking out five hits in the bottom of the first inning. Junior catcher Kristin Meister got the rally going in style with a leadoff home run.

Later in the inning, freshman outfielder Christina Lizzi connected on an RBI double to right center field and then scored on an error. Sophomore infielder Erin Cusmano also added an RBI double and a run by stealing home to give the Lions an early 6-0 lead.

Regarding the offensive outburst in the first inning, head coach Sally Miller said, “I’ve never seen any team do something like that. We came out attacking and took advantage of the opportunities we were given.”

In the third inning, the Lions tacked on three more runs thanks to two passed balls. Freshman pinch runner Stephanie Trstensky and Cusmano each scored on the Mules’ sloppy play behind the plate. Senior infielder Siobhan Scullin was 2-for-3 with a run, while Lizzi and senior infielder Cristina Venetucci each went 1-for-2. Venetucci also drove in two runs.

In the nightcap of the doubleheader, the Lions finished off the Mules 9-1, ending the game in sixth with the eight-run mercy rule. Sophomore pitcher Jess Kohut crossed the plate to give the Lions the decisive eight-run lead.

Kohut pitched six strong innings, giving up one run on six hits. She was also 3-for-3 from the plate with two RBIs and a run.

Finding themselves down a run in the bottom of the third, Meister and Lizzi each scored on an error to put the Lions up 2-1. In the fourth, freshman infielder Stephanie Trstensky connected on a leadoff solo home run.

Kohut added two more runs to help her own cause when she singled up the middle later in the inning to score both Meister, who doubled down the left field line, and Scullin, who had reached on an infield single.

The Lions added another three runs in the fifth to make it 8-1 as Venetucci grounded out to third to score sophomore pinch runner Tara Harrigan. Meister took advantage of an error to get on base and then stole home for the second run. Lizzi singled to right to drive in the final run of the inning, pushing the Lions’ lead to seven.

Scullin finished the game 2-for-2 with a pair of runs, Meister went 2-for-3 with three runs and Lizzi went 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI.

“We’re on a roll offensively and defensively and our pitching is doing incredibly well,” senior outfielder Kristen Zimmerman said. “We have the confidence that we need going into the conference games.”

Earlier in the week, Zimmerman was named Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III Metro Player of the Week as well as New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) player of the week following her 10-for-13 performance during last week’s round robin action. She collected five doubles, two home runs, a triple, eight RBIs and seven runs. She currently leads the NJAC with eight doubles and 10 stolen bases.

Prior to these two victories, the team was able to crack the latest National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division III Top 25 Poll by sliding in at No. 25. The Lions made the list after not being ranked in the preseason poll.

This honor came on the heels of a dominating effort in last week’s round robin competition that saw the Lions go 4-0 against the University of Rochester and Swarthmore College. Helping them rise up in the rankings were three wins this season against ranked opponents, including No. 3 Muskingum College, No. 4 Salisbury University and No. 16 Methodist College.

The team was rained out against the Cougars of Kean University on Saturday and will try to make up the two games this Thursday at home. The Lions next take the field on Tuesday against Rutgers University-Newark at Armstrong Field, marking the beginning of a string of conference games in preparation for the NJAC tournament starting in early May.