The softball team started the 2017 season with two losses against Randolph-Macon College on Sunday, Feb. 26.
Traveling south to Ashland, Va., for a doubleheader, the Lions are returning to the diamond after posting a 30-16 record and reaching to the NCAA regional tournament last season. Meanwhile, the Yellow Jackets finished last season with similar record, 31-13.
At the first game, the Lions offense went on a hot start, scoring three runs in the first inning. With Lions covering second and third base, sophomore infielder Jess McGuire blasted a triple home run, giving the Lions a 3-0 lead.
The Yellow Jackets quickly responded in the following inning when Yellow Jackets junior first baseman Harley Jones launched a double home run, cutting the Lions lead to 3-2. At the bottom of the third inning, the Yellow Jackets used a combination of steals and sacrifice bunts to catch up to the Lions.
Yellow Jackets freshman outfielder Shelby Hill buzzed out the Lions when she hit a single and stole all the way to third base. Afterwards, Jones smacked a bunt, allowing Hill to score and tie the game. A throwing error by the Lions later gave Yellow Jackets freshman infielder Sam Scifres a chance to score from third base.
The Lions were not able to score for the rest of the game, and the Yellow Jackets won, 4-3.
In the next game, the Lions offense was completely shunned by Yellow Jackets, as the Lions lost, 8-0. Yellow Jackets freshman pitcher Cameron Thompson permitted four hits while sophomore pitcher Sara Bielamowicz struggled to contain the Yellow Jackets offense. The fourth inning proved to be difficult for the Lions. The Yellow Jackets pounded them with singles and Bielamowicz issued multiple walks.
Despite the hard loss, the season has only begun for the Lions.
This year’s softball team was ranked second in the New Jersey Athletic Conference preseason poll. The Lions possess a furious offense aided by sophomores outfielder Gaby Bennett and infielder/outfielder Jess Santelli. The two sophomores are looking to improve after being name on the All-NJAC first team last season.
The Lions offense will also feature an incoming sophomore transfer from Rutgers University, outfielder Arielle Couso. At News Brunswick, N.J., Couso competed in 19 games and registered three hits, one steal and one run.
“I personally have been playing softball with Arielle since I was 13 years old,” Santelli said. “Arielle has always had the drive to improve herself defensively and offensively, and she will never stopped improving,” Santelli added. “Last year, we lost our starting right fielder, (senior) Kristen Fitzsimmons and she left a spot that would be very hard to fill.
“However, Arielle has been working extremely hard for that spot and has been doing a great job filling that void. She brings great versatility to our lineup with a quick bat and quick feet, and I look forward to playing with her for years to come.”
After finishing with a 19-5 record on the mound, junior pitcher Sam Platt looks to continue her dominance. She will lead the Lions pitching staff along with freshman Kristen Barrera and Bielamowicz.
Seniors outfielder Nerylix Cerda and infielder Colleen Phelan will support the Lions defense and fuel the offense.
The Lions will be traveling to Kissimmee, Fla., throughout the week of March 11 to compete in a series of games against universities including Westminster, Springfield and McDaniel colleges.
The team is scheduled to play its first conference match against Rutgers University-Newark on April 1.
“With all of the knowledge and experience that I gained from freshman year, my main goal for the 2017 season is to come out as a leader,” Santelli said. “A leader for the team, but more importantly a leader to the freshmen since I was lucky enough to be led by six very talented and knowledgeable seniors last year.”