The Sunday doubleheader against Muhlenberg College (10-2) began as a showdown between a pair of undefeated pitchers. By the end of game one, however, it was freshman pitcher Ashtin Helmer, with nine strikeouts, who got the better of her opponent as the Lions won 7-5.
In the following game, the College carried the momentum as fellow freshman pitcher Nicole Hroncich led the team to a 4-0 victory.
“Muhlenberg can hit the ball, so I was really pleased with our pitching today,” head coach Sally Miller said. “Even in the first game, Ashtin wasn’t totally on but she hung in there, and we (were able to) produce enough runs.”
Although the Lions never trailed, in the final inning of the first game, there was a brief moment where the Mules looked to be gaining control of the game. Down 7-3 with the bases loaded, Miller decided to relieve Helmer with freshman pitcher Katie Hourihan.
“They were coming up with their two biggest hitters and Ashtin wasn’t hitting her spots the last two hitters so I thought if we put Katie in and change up the speed of the pitch,” Miller said. “She definitely didn’t come in and do what she’s been doing in practice or the bull pen, so (after two consecutive walks that resulted in runs), I went right back with Ashtin.”
On the first pitch, the Lions were able to recover and sealed the victory by forcing a double play.
In the second game, Hroncich improved to 4-1 on the season, as she recorded her first shutout of her young collegiate pitching career.
“Nicole pitched a great ball game,” Miller said. “Her pitches were on and it was nice for her to come back after yesterday when it wasn’t such a great outing.”
Despite all of her success against the Mules, Hroncich acknowledges that the victory was not an individual effort.
“Our team played really well on defense,” she said. “It was definitely a team shutout because I was not out there throwing 21 strikeouts.”
Overall, Miller was very impressed with the way her two freshman pitchers were able to stay tough throughout both games on Sunday.
“They are handling themselves very well on the mound, but in addition to that, they are very composed out there and we have seen that in games with tight situations and that is a huge part of pitching,” Miller said. “As a pitcher you can’t have anything affect you because you have to know what you are capable of doing and still stay within yourself in order to let your defense help you.”
On the offensive side, the College was also very dominant and had a team batting average of .346.
“We are hitting the ball well, the team is making some really good adjustments based off of the pitching that we have seen because we face all kinds of pitchers,” Miller said. “We knew coming into today what to expect from their pitching staff and we talked about it beforehand and practiced it in the cage as we do all the time.”
The Lions ended the weekend going 3-1 after splitting the doubleheader against SUNY Cortland in their home opener. Their next game will be away against Ramapo College on Friday, March 29.