By Miguel Gonzalez
While students from the College were on spring break recess, the softball team headed down to Clermont, Fla., for a 10-game series. Along the way, the Lions compiled six wins and four losses for an overall record of 8-5 on the season. For the week of March 16, freshman infielder/outfielder Jess Santelli was announced as the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) rookie player of the week for her consistent hitting during the Lions’s victory against Keene State College.
On Saturday, March 12, the Lions endured two narrow games with a 10-9 victory against the Calvin College Knights and a 3-4 loss against the Wesleyan University Cardinals. At the top of the sixth inning against the Knights, the Lions were leading 4-0 until junior Knight outfielder Caitlin Bell drove a double onto the right field and sent senior infielder Ashley Riemersma and sophomore outfielder Kimiko Hinatsu to home plate. The Knights then proceeded to take a 5-4 lead when freshman outfielder Kristen Newman scored from a triple and freshman shortstop Maddie DeGroot exploited a Lions’s error on third base to score.
The inning launched a constant back-and-forth notion of the Lions surging from run deficits until the bottom of the eighth inning. Down 9-8, the Lions broke open when senior outfielder Kristen Fitzsimmons scored from a double to even the score at 9-9. Senior infielder Steph Vuono miraculously scored off a wild pitch from Knights junior pitcher Paige Groom and sealed a 10-9 victory.
Following the dramatic game, the Lions’s offense was pecked by the Wesleyan University Cardinals. Down 3-4, the Lions failed to get on base during the top of the sixth and seventh innings. The Cardinals would ultimately take the win at 3-4.
On Sunday, March 13, the Lions’s offense roared toward a resounding 7-0 victory against the Keene State College Owls. The Lions accumulated 10 hits while sophomore and freshman pitchers Sam Platt and Nicole Frank secured the shutout. Afterward, the Lions were shutout themselves by the Frostburg State University Bobcats in a 2-0 loss. Bobcat sophomore pitcher Allison Short regulated the Lions to only two hits, while Lions senior pitcher Ashtin Helmer conceded two runs.
“Competition brings us together. It is pivotal for everyone to know each other and play the game together, especially first year players,” head coach Sally Miller said about the vigorous opponents. “Good bonding is more than necessary to play at such a high level of competition.”
With a stronger team bond developing, the Lions swept the Fitchburg State University Falcons and took home a win against the Westfield State University Owls in 5-0 and 9-3 victories, respectively.
Despite the momentum, the Lions endured a two-game losing roadblock against the Bethel University Royals and the University of New England Nor’easters. Locked in a 1-1 stalemate at the top of the sixth inning, the Royals earned themselves a 2-1 lead when sophomore infielder Wendy Roberts hit a single towards center field and senior outfielder Abbie Bircher scored from third base. Similar to the matchup against Wesleyan University, the Lions failed to score another run during the bottom of the sixth and seventh innings.
The Lions finished their last two matches with two wins, including an intense eighth-inning, 7-6 win against Amherst College.
With a 5-1 deficit in the top of the sixth inning, the Lions initiated a comeback when freshman outfielder Gaby Bennett scored from third base. The Lions evened the score in the following inning when sophomore outfielder Madison Levine slammed a single to left field and allowed freshman infielder Daniella Marino and Bennett to score. The Lions added assurance by extending their lead to 7-5 on top of the eighth inning. Senior catcher Jamie Purcell scored from a triple and senior infielder Steph Vuono astonishingly stole home plate. The Lions proceeded to shun Amherst College’s comeback and close the match.
“It’s a tough schedule,” Miller said. “(There are) a lot of good teams with good pitching and defense. We can’t let a team open the door on us towards the end — we have to sharpen our defense.”
The Lions travel to Allentown, Pa., on Wednesday, March 23, for a doubleheader against the Muhlenberg College Mules. After, the Lions arrive at Dr. June Walker Field for a doubleheader against the Red Dragons from the State University of New York at Cortland on Friday, March 25.