The Slippery Rock softball team wrapped up its weekend road trip with an exclamation point on Sunday. The Rock upset number 10 ranked California University (Pa.) 1-0 in game one of the doubleheader, snapping the Vulcans’ 27-game winning streak. Prior to the loss, CalU had not lost since Feb. 19 and was undefeated in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) West division play.
SRU sophomore Brooke Dawson (8-7, 2.92 ERA) started game one and collected her second complete game shutout in as many days, pitching the entire seven-inning game while giving up only five hits. Dawson defeated Cal U starter Alex Sagl, who has a 1.40 ERA and ranks fifth in the entire PSAC with 13 wins.
SRU head coach Stacey Rice said she was not surprised that Dawson was able to compete with one of the best pitchers in the conference.
“We have belief in our pitching staff. We believe that they can do anything,” Rice said. “I believed that she (Dawson) was going to do a great job, she had done a great job last time out. We hit Sagl better than some of their other pitchers so I was more confident pitching her (Dawson) against one of the top pitchers in the nation, just because I knew it would make a great game.”
Junior Caitlin Baxter provided all the offense of the game, hitting the eventually game-winning home run in the fourth inning to give Slippery Rock a 1-0 lead. The homer was Baxter’s fourth of the season and her 21st RBI.
Rice said Baxter is one of the most composed players when batting with runners in scoring position and that she has embraced batting in the clean-up spot in the lineup, to the point of becoming an “RBI-producing machine.”
The Vulcans seemed poised to tie or win the game in the bottom of the seventh inning when they had runners on first and second with only one out. California freshman Emilee Downing singled into the outfield, but sophomore center fielder Emily Nagle was able to throw out the Cal U runner who was trying to advance to third. Senior third baseman Ashley Samluk then threw the ball to senior shortstop Kaite Kaiser covering second base and Kaiser was able to tag out another Cal U runner to end the game.
“One of the things that we’ve been really trying to work on has been finishing games,” Rice said. “We really seem to struggle in the seventh inning. We really need to eliminate the excitement at the end of games. Even though (California) still tried to make things interesting in the seventh inning, we stayed composed. We didn’t panic when there were two runners on base. They played within themselves and stayed composed.”
Game two was not as close, as California scored five runs in the first inning off of Rock starter junior Carly DeRose (8-6, 3.52 ERA). DeRose did not make it out of the first inning and the Vulcans won the game 8-0 in five innings.
The doubleheader split puts Slippery Rock at 19-18 (8-8 PSAC) and Cal U at 28-2 (15-1 PSAC). California remains in first place in the PSAC-West and after its weekend of games the Green and White now sit in third place in the division. With 19 wins, Slippery Rock matches its highest win total since 2011.
The team will have the week off before facing Edinboro University on the road on Saturday.