With the playoffs just weeks away, the Lions continued their torrid run through the regular season conference schedule by routing the Pioneers of William Paterson University on Saturday.
The team pulled off a 3-0 shutout in game one, while showing off the bats in a 7-1 romp the second half of the twin bill at Lions’ Park.
“There are two huge wins,” head coach Sally Miller said. “Coming off a few doubleheaders that were not the best offensive performances, we got back to basics and hit our stride in both games.”
The No. 9-ranked team in the nation, according to the latest National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll, took it to William Paterson in the initial contest thanks to dominant pitching of senior Ashley Minervini. The ace of the Lions’ staff blanked the Pioneers on five hits. She didn’t walk a batter while fanning five to pick up her 10th win of the season.
“She’s been good all year,” Miller said. “Our pitching has been dominant up until now.”
Her stuff was there, so she didn’t need much support from the offense. Nevertheless, her offense continued its impressive overall output.
Sophomore left fielder Crystal Lee used her speed to knock an inside-the-park home run in the fifth inning.
Seniors Ellen Seavers and Dani Hagel both had RBIs for the Lions as well. Seavers singled in rookie second baseman Ashley Sogluizzo in the first, while Hagel plated freshman pinch runner Michelle Casale in the sixth.
More of the same occurred in the second game. The hit parade was led by sophomore catcher Michelle Kent, who went 2-4 with two RBI singles. Lee pitched in with a 3-5 day, including two runs and a RBI herself.
Like Minervini, pitcher Lauren Fitzsimmons didn’t need much help. The sophomore hurled a complete game for her New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) leading 13th win of the season. “Fitz” scattered four hits over the seven innings while striking out five.
“(Fitzsimmons has) been consistent and dominant all year,” Miller said. “She’s beenstrong, hitting her pitches when she needs to.”
Before the games, the team learned that they would be without their starting rightfielder Rebecca Florczyk for the rest of the season, as the sophomore suffered a stress fracture in her right shin.
“Basically, I’ve been playing with horrible shin pain in my right leg all season,” Florczyk said. “I went for treatment on a regular basis with the athletic trainer, but nothing was helping and in fact, the pain only got worse as the season went on. This injury is out of my hands and all I can do is focus on getting better for next season.”
With Florczyk focused on her return in the fall, the team is still looking towards the conference tournament and beyond. With their next doubleheader looming this Saturday against Ramapo College, the team will look to stay hot and keep their hold onto first place in the conference.
The team currently is tops in the NJAC with 18 points, sporting a 9-1 record. They are 23-5 overall. With a mark like that, one could think the team is a lock for the playoffs. But that is not how Coach Miller does things.
“In the NJAC, there is not a team you can look past, and the truth of matter is there is a lot of talent on a lot of teams,” Miller said. “We are having a great season, but I have not looked past our next upcoming game. We have to play with what’s gotten us here do what we do well, and things will take care of itself.”
Momentum is certainly key at this point in the season, and with the Lions playing extremely well all season long, they know this fact better than anyone else.