By Malcolm Luck
After six games were postponed due to inclement weather, the softball team was back at Dr. June Walker Field on March 27 against Cabrini University.
The Lions split the doubleheader, losing 1-2 and winning 8-0 against Cabrini. They then took both games against Rutgers University-Newark on Saturday, March 31, winning 6-4 in extra innings, followed by a 5-2 victory.
The loss against Cabrini was closely contested as a result of the stellar performances put forth by both starting pitchers. Senior pitcher Sam Platt and Cabrini’s senior pitcher Jess Giordano both hurled complete games for their respective teams, but Platt was the first to crack, allowing a walk and a home run in the top of the sixth inning.
The Lions strung together a series of singles in the bottom of the seventh, but Giordano managed to secure the win despite giving up an RBI single off the bat of sophomore infielder/outfielder Annalise Suitovsky. Head coach Sally Miller attributed the poor offensive performance to the lack of adjustments.
“The first game versus Cabrini, we weren’t really ready to play,” Miller said. “We didn’t make any adjustments offensively to their pitcher like we have done in all games up until that point.”
The Lions’ bats couldn’t be contained much longer, as they blasted eight runs in the second game of the doubleheader.
The College set the tone early, stinging freshman Cabrini pitcher Casey Schueren for three runs in the first inning. Suitovsky kicked things off, smacking a single down the right field line and coming around to score two batters later after senior outfielder Madison Levine sent a double into the center field gap. Junior catcher Jess McGuire capped the inning off with a home run over the center field wall.
Following two additional runs in the bottom of the third, freshman infielder Lauren Conroy spoiled any chances of a comeback, putting the game out of reach by blasting a three-run home run to center field and giving the Lions an 8-0 lead. Freshman pitcher/infielder Alanna Namit went the distance, tossing five scoreless innings for the complete game shutout due to the mercy rule.
Levine’s first inning double marked the 100th hit of her collegiate career. Miller attests to Levine’s distinct ability to focus and adapt.
“She is very focused right now balancing academics with practice and has had really good practices mentally and physically all preseason,” Miller said. “She has focused in on her offense this winter and holds herself accountable for adjustments she also needs to make in practice such as what she feels good with versus what she is struggling with.”
The Lions rode their winning momentum to Newark, New Jersey to take on Rutgers-Newark. In the first game, Platt found herself with a 0-2 deficit after giving up an RBI double and allowing an unearned run in the bottom of the first inning.
The College’s offense took advantage of Rutgers-Newark’s faulty defense in the bottom of the second, as junior outfielder Gaby Bennett sent a double down the left field line and scored on a fielding error just one batter later.
Bennett momentarily played hero in the top of the sixth, whacking a two-out RBI double in the center gap, stealing third and scoring on a throwing error to give her team a late 4-3 lead. However, Rutgers-Newark knotted the game back at 4-4 following a one-out sacrifice fly. Freshman pitcher Eliza Sweet induced an inning-ending double play to escape further damage.
In extra innings, the Lions struck early. Sophomore outfielder Helena Coppola sent an RBI single through the right side to score Conroy from third and freshman outfielder Kaitlin Kocinski followed up with an RBI double to right for an insurance run. Sweet finished the deal at the bottom of the eighth to leave the diamond as the winning pitcher.
Another early pitcher’s duel silenced the Lions’ bats in the second game of the doubleheader until the top of the fifth inning.
Bennett hit a sacrifice fly to center, sending home junior infielder Francesca Pugliese for the first run of the game. The Lions added two more runs in the next inning following back-to-back RBI doubles to left by McGuire and Kocinski.
The team then dropped two additional unearned runs in the top of the seventh to stretch the lead to 5-0. Despite giving up two runs in the bottom of the seventh, Namit held on for the win with the help of Sweet, who pitched for the final two outs of the game.
The Lions will return to Dr. June Walker field to face William Paterson University on Saturday, April 7 at 1 p.m., beginning an extensive stretch of conference games.
“It’s a tough conference and we will battle every inning of every game,” Miller said. “We need to stay focused on what we have done in past games that produces success individually and as a team. Every game will be a battle and we just need to not only understand it but be prepared for the intensity and importance of every inning.”