For more than two years, the College’s softball team has been without a place to call its own on campus and had few fans to support its games. The team had been playing on an off-campus field located on Green Lane for the past two seasons, with construction plans for a new field going almost as slowly as those for the student apartments on Metzger Drive.
“(When) playing on Green Lane, we didn’t have the fan base; people didn’t want to drive up there,” junior third baseman Tara Harrigan said. “Some people didn’t even know we had a softball team cause they didn’t know where our field was.”
Although the Lions were finally able unveil their much anticipated new softball complex, they did so with a heavy heart. Junior Jess Kohut, who had been hit in the head by a line drive while pitching in a game against Muhlenberg College on March 29, threw out the ceremonial first pitch on the new field. Kohut, a returning starter from last year who the team expected to carry much of the pitching load, is out for the season after suffering the devastating injury, according to head coach Sally Miller.
“Kohut going down is huge; you’re not going to play that lightly,” Miller said. “Anytime a player like Kohut goes down, somebody that’s a starter for you in the circle, switching time with other pitchers, typically your (designated player) and a big hitter, what do you do? The kids have to respond and I think they’ve done that well.”
After being swept by the 11th-ranked Scarlet Raptors of Rutgers University-Camden in a double header on April 3, the Lions responded with clutch defensive plays and timely hitting to win both games of a double header on April 6. The games, against the Fords of Haverford College, were the first played on the new softball field. Both games were decided by one run.
With the second game going back and forth, it came down to the final frame. Pitching was hard to come by, so junior Heather Hoffman pitched the final three frames of the first game and the entire second game, but managed to give her team a chance to win at the end.
In the bottom of the seventh, Harrigan led off by hitting a rope to left center that bounced off the fence for a double. Then, as junior outfielder Jenn Hughes grounded out, Harrigan boldly snuck over to third, barely sliding underneath the tag on the throw over.
“Our coach is always telling us to be aggressive,” Harrigan said. “When I saw the ball was hit, I held up and made (the Haverford shortstop) look at me and then as soon as I saw her making the throw, I broke. Normally, I’m a pretty fast runner, so I had it in me to beat (the throw).”
Junior infielder Vicki Blevins ended the game in dramatic fashion in the next at-bat with a walk-off double to deep left field to give the College a 4-3 win.
“I was just looking to get the runner in and do whatever I can do to help the team win,” Blevens said. She finished the game 2-for-3, driving in a pair of runs and also scoring two runs.
In the first game, the Lions made a couple run-saving plays to keep themselves in contention and got the hits when they needed them to take the a 3-2 victory.
In the top of the third, junior right fielder Kristin Boyer gunned down a runner from deep in the outfield on a Haverford sacrifice fly attempt. Then in the top of the sixth, with a runner on first base, Haverford freshman first baseman Natalie Richman drove a pitch to left center field that could have gone for extra bases. But Hughes timed it perfectly and made a tremendous diving catch to end the threat.
In the bottom of the sixth, with the score knotted up at two, the Lions played some small ball to get the decisive third run across the plate. After a ground out, senior infielder Laura Prevete came to plate with a squeeze play in order. She waited on a change up and laid down a perfect sac bunt that allowed Boyer to score. That proved to be the deciding run as Hoffman closed out the game in the seventh.
On Monday, the Lions earned a pair of conference wins, as they swept Kean University 10-0 and 3-1.
Junior outfielder Jen Hughes belted two home runs to go along with five RBI to power the offense in the first game. Hoffman dominated the second game from the mound, allowing just one run with nine strikeouts.
Against Rutgers-Camden, the Lions were contained to just three hits, as they lost both games of the double header.
“Their pitcher was a rise ball pitcher,” Boyer said.
In game one, it was a pitchers’ duel as senior Michelle Sclichtig pitched a two hitter en route to a 1-0 Rutgers win. Despite the loss, junior Julianne Lajiness stayed strong until a sixth inning double from sophomore Kathleen Dreitlein sealed the game. The Raptors scored the lone run on the Lions’ error.
The duel continued in the second game, as Hoffman allowed just five hits and struck out five. Hoffman was well on her way to a shut out, but junior Alaina Giles singled to left and then advanced when junior Autumn Millet was walked. After a pop up, Dreitlein slammed a double to left-center and delivered the runs her team needed.
The Lions are back in action on Thursday at home against Hunter College.
– Tim Fox, Sports Editor; Kaitlin Hamilton, Staff Writer