With Lilley Field, home of the California University (Pa.) Vulcans, still under construction, the Slippery Rock University softball team picked up an “away” sweep of the Vulcans at the SRU Softball Complex Tuesday afternoon while acting as the away team.
“It’s strange but we did it last year. You have to just clear your head a little bit; you have got to know what you’re looking at. This isn’t the first time we’ve done it, so we handled it well,” said SRU coach Stacey Rice.
A pitchers’ duel in game one broke open into a high-scoring affair in game two. A 2-1 win and a 9-4 win over the Vulcans enabled SRU to begin Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference-West play on a hot streak.
Sophomore pitcher Camie Shumaker took the mound for game one and outdueled her Vulcan counterpart to the tune of allowing just one run on five hits while striking out nine batters.
Shumaker has allowed two or fewer earned runs in nine of her last 10 appearances. The sophomore ace has compiled 53 strikeouts over 47 innings pitched in those appearances. Her seven wins lead SRU.
The Rock (10-13, 2-0 PSAC) struck early, adding a run to the scoreboard in the second and third inning. Rice attributed the key runs to keeping an optimistic approach at the plate through some offensive inconsistency.
“I think that some timely hitting helps. Just making sure that when the opportunity was given, we took it,” said Rice. “It very easily could have been us on the other side of that. It happened to us at Lock Haven. You just hope to learn from your mistakes and grow from them. Seeing an opportunity, capitalizing on that opportunity and just going with it.”
Redshirt freshman first baseman Adeline Nicholson led the way by going 1-for-2 from the plate with an RBI. Senior second baseman Megan Brown went 2-for-4 from the plate with a stolen base and a run.
After connecting on just six hits in game one, The Rock tallied nine runs against the Vulcans (4-14, 0-2) in game two.
Rice reiterated how patience and the ability to keep a cool head through a rough stretch of play enabled SRU to pile on runs in game two.
“Some days the bats are on, some days they aren’t,” Rice said. “We had some faces that took a step up and we’ve played with the lineup to see what works best. Who’s going to be our number three hitter? So, we’re still working on some things but it’s nice to see people step up.”
A five-run fourth inning built an insurmountable deficit for the Vulcans and three more runs in the seventh inning iced the series sweep.
Sophomore centerfielder Cortney Claypoole started the fourth inning rally with a two-run RBI double. She cracked a line drive shot over the right fielder’s head which scored sophomore catcher Leah Vith and sophomore third baseman Becca Roesch.
Rice pointed to Claypoole’s strides on the defensive side of the ball in allowing her to find an outfield trio that maximized each player’s potential.
“[Guglielmino] was our left fielder for the past two years but when we put [Claypoole] out there, we knew that a lot of balls were going to hit out there. So, we made that change. Let’s put [Guglielmino] back out there in left field and let’s try someone new at center and it worked out really well. It’s something we’re willing to experiment with, and with Cortney making some really good defensive plays, she’s going to see a lot more time,” Rice explained.
Freshman pitcher Chloe Sharman completed her first complete game victory against the Vulcans, allowing three runs on six hits with three strikeouts. Sharman’s emergence as a freshman has Rice excited for the future of SRU’s rotation but she stressed living in the now for this season’s team.
While Rice said that Sharman doesn’t have the fastest fastball, the spin she places on her pitches enables her to succeed as a freshman.
“She’s shown great poise and some ice in her veins,” Rice said. “She throws with a maturity that a freshman doesn’t typically show. That is what I’m most impressed with her. She has the physical aspects of the game but that’s just practice. It’s really hard to teach mental strength so to see that maturity so young is really exciting.”
Despite picking up a division sweep to begin PSAC play, Rice tempered her expectations moving forward.
“The expectation is to win. The PSAC-West is a tricky division, a lot of back and forth play. Not a lot of sweeps so when you can get a sweep, that really moves you forward,” said Rice. “So, that definitely sets the tone here moving forward.”
Staying at the SRU Softball Complex on April 3 for another PSAC-West matchup with Mercyhurst University, this time SRU is the home team.
Opening pitch is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.