Softball splits series against Mercyhurst

Published by , Author: Karl Ludwig - Assistant Sports Editor, Date: April 5, 2019
Sophomore third baseman Becca Roesch fields a ground ball against Mercyhurst University. Roesch batted 2-for-5 in the double header.

Another slow start for Rock bats led to a series split against Mercyhurst University Wednesday afternoon at the SRU Softball Complex.

After the Slippery Rock University softball team managed to muster only three hits in support of sophomore ace Camie Shumaker in a 2-1 game one loss, SRU scored four runs over the final three innings of a 4-2 game two win.

Two more tightly contested games reinforced the narrative that Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference-West matchups will lead to low-scoring pitcher’s duels. Rice emphasized the valuable experience these kinds of games give the younger members on this season’s team.

“It’s just learning how to play when the stakes are high. They’ve handled that in many cases this season where they’ve come from behind, played in tight games and played in extra innings,” Rice explained. “We’ve won some and lost some. What I think that shows is that they can beat anyone, and they can win at any point in a game.”

Shumaker pitched a complete game loss in game one. She limited the Lakers (6-19, 2-2 PSAC) to two runs on six hits while striking out six batters.

With only three hits against the Lakers, SRU (11-14, 3-1) batters ran into another locked-in pitcher, a trend that Rice said has carried over from their games in Florida over spring break.

“We’ve been seeing really good pitching,” said Rice. “Even down in Florida, we were playing some ranked teams and when they weren’t ranked, they were top of their division. We haven’t seen bad pitching. When you’re seeing good pitching, it takes a couple of at-bats to get your eyes down and figure some things out.”

Through the first three innings of game two—with the Lakers’ game one pitcher back on the mound—it appeared that SRU would not be able to solve Mercyhurst’s pitchers. Rice credited her team’s calm composure in breaking out the game and a half long slump.

“They stayed patient. That same girl came out for game two and they could have easily melted but they stayed patient and strung some hits together when it mattered. She’s a good pitcher; we have to give her credit when it’s due. You’re not going to go 3-for-3 with two home runs against a pitcher like that,” said Rice.

Freshman pinch runner Kaitlyn Bowman capitalized on a wild pitch to sophomore catcher Leah Vith and scored the first run of the day for SRU in the fourth inning.

Three runs in the sixth inning, capped by senior shortstop Kailey Myers’ two-run RBI double to left field pushed the Green and White’s led to four runs.

Surviving a mini Lakers rally in the seventh inning—which saw senior reliever Andria Copelli enter the game for freshman pitcher Chloe Sharman—allowed Copelli to put together a performance to build on moving forward.

Sharman, picking up her fourth win of the season, pitched six and one-third innings and allowed just two runs on six hits. Rice stated how having a rotation of consistent pitchers takes an enormous amount of stress out of her life.

“This game relies on pitching. Yes, you can’t win without scoring runs but if you can’t keep the ball in the park, you won’t win any games at all,” Rice said. “So much of our success relies on who’s in that circle and to see that we have two quality starters and reliable reliever takes a lot off my shoulders.”

While the lack of hits and subsequent runs may frustrate Rice and her team, once the balls batted into play start finding the gaps in the infield or start dropping in the outfield, hits and runs will pile up, according to Rice.

“It’s the way the game is played sometimes. Sometimes you hit right to them and sometimes the bloopers drop right behind the second baseman,” said Rice. “I feel like today, we just kept hitting shots to the outfielders, but that’s the game.”

Rice said stringing together games in which the whole team consistently puts in effort from the opening pitch until the last out will enable SRU to compete with the best the conference has to offer.

“Sometimes that first out and the twentieth out are played differently,” Rice said. “They’re showing that it’s not bothering them and that the game is played the same in the seventh inning as it is in the first inning.”

With a number of games this season—especially in PSAC-West play—being decided by only a few runs, Rice reiterated how important believing in one’s ability to be a difference-maker is in deciding close games.

“Sometimes these close games can be really stressful and play on you mentally so it’s just making sure that even if you aren’t going 3-for-3, you still have to stay calm and know you are doing a good job,” Rice explained. “Your time will come, the ball is going to drop, you are going to be that person who gets the winning hit. It’s just keeping their “neck up” approach a little more focused. We have some really great upperclassmen who get it, but it’s making sure that the whole team buys in.”

A weather-related postponement leaves SRU next scheduled to play back-to-back doubleheaders this weekend. On Saturday, The Rock will be in action against Seton Hill University at the SHU Softball Complex. On Sunday, The Rock host Edinboro University at the SRU Softball Complex.

First pitch on Saturday is at 1 p.m.

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Karl is a senior sport management major and communication minor entering his fifth semester on The Rocket staff. He will serve as the sports editor after previously serving as the assistant sports editor. During his time with The Rocket, he has covered every sport that SRU has to offer, and with the lack of sports this coming semester, he is looking forward to finding alternative ways to deliver sports news to the SRU community. After graduation, he hopes to work in the sports writing field.


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