Keeping a tight grip on first place in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC), the Lions split their doubleheader on Saturday April 24, against the Roadrunners of Ramapo College.
The No. 7-ranked National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll, the Lions squeaked out the win in game one 1-0, while the Roadrunners handily took the second contest by a final of 5-0.
“We were disappointed with our offense, but happy with our defense,” sophomore catcher Michelle Kent said. “We managed the Ramapo runners really well. They have a lot of speed.”
The split with Ramapo keeps the Lions in first with 24 points, while the Roadrunners sit in third with 20 points. Second place belongs to the Profs of Rowan University, who have 22 points.
“The NJAC is still one of the most competitive conferences, and anyone on any given day can win,” Kent said.
Game one was all about senior Ashley Minervini, as the College’s ace outdueled Ramapo counterpart Deanna Giordano to pick up her 12th win and sixth shutout of the season.
The Lions’ starter scattered seven hits while fanning seven. Giordano took the loss despite not allowing an earned run on six hits.
“She was completely dominant, and she worked the hitters well, especially with her screwball and keeping the ball down,” Kent said, who was behind the plate for Minervini’s gem of a performance. “She did really well.”
All the help Minervini would need was from an unearned run in the bottom of the fourth inning. Freshman second baseman Ashley Sogluizzo scored on an infield error after reaching base on a single.
“During any type of game like this, you’re tense, and you’re pushing for your offense to do well,” sophomore pitcher Lauren Fitzsimmons said. “Sometimes when facing a dominating pitcher, we
have to make adjustments in the box. Luckily, we made something happen and pulled out a win.”
However, the same cannot be said for game two. The lack of offense finally caught up to the team, as the Roadrunners broke out with five runs in one inning against Lions’ game two starter Lauren Fitzsimmons.
All of those runs came with two outs.
“When I had runners on second and third, I was pitching against Michelle’s (Kent’s) sister, Amanda, and on a full count, I didn’t get a call that we all thought was a strike,” Fitzsimmons said. “We all thought it was a questionable call, but it wasn’t the strike three pitch the ump was looking for. You got to bounce back, but I got taken out shortly thereafter.”
Fitzsimmons suffered her first loss of the season. Her worst inning, the fifth, did not go as she planned, as the sophomore walked home two runs with the bases loaded, followed by a bases-clearing triple.
The loss was her first after running off 14 straight wins to start the season.
“To be honest, the record doesn’t matter to me,” Fitzsimmons said. “Just because a win of mine is recorded as a win doesn’t mean I feel I pitched that way. My record doesn’t mean anything. We win as a team, and in this case, we lost as a team.”
Only getting one run in two games may be a cause for concern to some teams, but to Michelle Kent, who had one hit in the double-dip, it’s all about becoming better against this type of adversity.
“Honestly, we didn’t make adjustments to win, but in the future, we just know what we need to do,” Kent said. “We should be fine, we need to just make the adjustments.”
With just one more doubleheader, Saturday at Lions’ Park at 1 p.m. against the New Jersey City University Gothic Knights, the 26-6 Lions need to get their best efforts in the weeks ahead.
With the conference tournament just days away and the Lions facing the best pitchers the NJAC has to offer, offense will most definitely be at a premium.