SOFTBALL: Lions sweep Gothic Knights

With a sweep of New Jersey City University (NJCU), the softball team kept its sights set on the postseason and saw head coach Sally Miller earn her 350th career win.

“We did some good things early on to get us to this point, and these wins were not easy,” Miller said. “(NJCU is) a good hitting team, but our defense made some phenomenal plays, not to mention our pitching was excellent.”

The Lions began their twin bill with a slim 1-0 victory in a game featuring sophomore pitcher Ashley Minervini.

The second-year hurler pitched a one-hit masterpiece, striking out four in the process. She also batted in the lone run of the contest, as she plated freshman pinch runner and infielder Kathy Sikora in the bottom of the seventh inning to secure game one.

“Offensively, Ashley can be a very good hitter,” Miller said. “As the season has gone on we let her hit more, and she’s a very strong girl so I knew she’d hit it hard.”

Minervini attributed her success to her teammates.

“It obviously feels great to do what I did, but it really was a team effort,” Minervini said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do anything without the team behind me.”

In the second contest, the Lions took down the Gothic Knights 7-3.

This game had a flair for the dramatic as the deciding play was a two-out, seventh-inning grand slam to dead center field by sophomore outfielder Danielle Hagel.

“That heck of a lot of pressure on her didn’t faze her,” Miller said.

The game started off with a focus on offense as Greeby got the Lions rolling with a two-RBI double in the top of the first inning. Hagel then added an RBI groundout to make it a 3-0 game.

The game became a pitcher’s duel until the bottom of the sixth frame when the Gothic Knights knotted things up. Freshman pitcher Alex Sietsma pelted a Gothic Knight with the bases loaded before a two-run single tied the game at 3.

The tie set up the breathtaking finish as Hagel belted the aforementioned grand slam to seal the 7-3 victory for the Lions. It was her third home run of the season.

Miller called for a time out prior to Hagel’s at-bat to warn her to “hit quickly” since the pitcher was pitching quickly.

“That put pressure on the pitcher, and that was the difference when (Hagel) got in there,” Miller said. “She adjusted.”

Minervini finished the final 1.1 innings for the Lions after Sietsma exited in the sixth.

“I knew Alex was tired, so I brought Ashley in because she’s been doing this all year,” Miller said. “When she’s on, she’s on. Today, her pitches were crisp.”

With the sweep, the Lions stand at 20-14 overall and 8-6 in New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) play.

“We feel really good,” Miller said. “Early on, that wasn’t really us playing, and we’ve (come) back and (are) now sitting pretty well. We need to take the next four games and do what we’re capable of doing. We’re not going to be given any of these games.”

Miller’s 350th career win, the second game of the doubleheader against NJCU, came in her 13th season at the College. While working as the Lions’ softball head coach, Miller has achieved a record of 350-157-2.

The Lions will take the field for their final doubleheader of the season as they host their NJAC rival, the Pioneers of William Paterson University on Saturday. The first game is slated for a 1 p.m. start.