A Friday and Saturday back-to-back series of doubleheaders with Seton Hill University and Gannon University left The Rock in danger of missing out on the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) playoffs.
Being swept by Seton Hill and splitting the series with Gannon has left The Rock at 23-18 (.560) overall with a 10-8 (.556) PSAC record without control over their own playoff destiny. On Friday afternoon, The Green and White travelled to Greensburg, Pennsylvania for a crucial PSAC West match-up with playoff bound Seton Hill. Following a tough day of softball, The Rock was swept with a closely contested 4-3 loss in game one and a bitter 4-1 loss in game two.
The Rock led game one of the series for most of the game, leading 3-1 heading into the bottom of the 7th inning. Senior pitcher Brooke Dawson pitched one run ball for most of the day until being knocked for three runs in the 7th inning as The Griffins walked off for a game one come from behind victory.
A slow start and the weather, although not in the way one would think, doomed The Green and White in game two. Freshman pitcher Camie Shoemaker survived a rocky first inning to blank the Griffins from the second inning on, but The Rock could only manage one run in support before weather/darkness ended the game early. Two separate lightning delays forced the game to be ended in the 5th inning, much to the chagrin of The Rock.
“We don’t expect to go undefeated. I mean that’s the game, look at today, it happens. Sometimes you have it, sometimes you don’t. The second game we just didn’t seem to have it and that comes down to pitching.” Head Coach Stacey Rice said after Saturday’s bitter game two loss.
The tough series against The Griffins was quickly in the rear-view mirror as The Green and White hosted Gannon on a bitterly cold Saturday morning. Despite being swept the previous day, a sweep or even series win over The Golden Knights would be crucial for The Rock’s playoff hopes.
Game one was a thrilling affair as The Rock overcame an early 9-3 deficit in a 14-13 walk-off win over The Golden Knights in the 8th inning. Shoemaker came in for relief of Dawson to earn the win, her eighth of the season. The highlight of the game came from freshman outfielder Cortney Claypoole. Claypoole, who had started her career at The Rock 0-8 at the plate, took Gannon pitcher Madi Beining deep for a grand slam in the bottom of the 4th to trim the deficit to 9-7. In the bottom of the 8th inning, freshman utility player Becca Roesch delivered the walk-off RBI single to clinch the victory for The Green and White.
“I think any time that you can come from behind, I think it gives you faith, it gives you confidence and that’s a good thing for your team.” Rice said, “we had lost a few games in the bottom of the 7th so to, kind of, conquer that demon is really important.”
Following the excitement from Saturday’s game one walk-off victory, The Rock came out flat in game with a 10-2 loss that was called in the 6th inning. Senior pitcher Paige Fiore took the mound for The Green and White but only lasted 2.1 innings in a tough outing. The Golden Knights poured on eight run, four earned, in the first three innings in route to a mercy rule victory that left The Rock feeling exasperated.
“I think we were extremely focused, I think we were ready. Like I said, I think a lot of it comes down to pitching. If you are not on, it’s hard to compete. We were just a little flat.” Rice said, emphasizing pitching woes on an unseasonably cold April afternoon.
Coming into the weekend, The Rock would have obviously liked to take all four games or even split both series. Taking one of four games was not an ideal result but nothing is ever guaranteed in a brutal conference like the PSAC as both Gannon and Seton Hill had already locked up playoff spots.
The final series of the regular season takes place this Sunday, April 30th at the SRU Softball Complex against California University of Pennsylvania. With less than desired results from the early weekend games, the playoff picture is rather murky. A sweep over The Vulcans would almost guarantee a spot in the playoffs, while splitting the series would require The Green and White to root for Edinboro University to take at least one game from CALU in their doubleheader on Monday afternoon.
With some luck, The Green and White will not come to rue their missed opportunities to show their skill against a couple of contenders. “It gives you confidence, but it also humbles you. It’s just the game of softball.” Rice said with an ambivalent smile.