Playing smart, error-free softball tends to lead to wins while the opposite approach does not bode well for a team hoping to string together some wins. The Slippery Rock University softball team experienced both ends of the spectrum against Gannon University on Thursday afternoon.
A couple of errors from the Golden Knights enabled SRU (13-20, 5-5 PSAC) to pick up a 7-6 win in game one. However, a costly mistake in game two allowed GU to pick up a 6-1 win.
“We were able to capitalize on some errors that Gannon had in game one which allowed for a couple of big innings, but we also had errors ourselves in the second game,” said SRU head coach Stacey Rice. “That’s the difference; we didn’t play sound defensive softball.”
During game one, a wild pitch, a hit by a pitch and a throwing error allowed SRU three free runs.
Even with a little bit of help from the Golden Knights (17-10, 6-4), Rice said the offense needed to start off fast in order to set the tone for the games throughout the next week.
An RBI single from sophomore third baseman Becca Roesch in the second inning followed by Roesch scoring on a throwing error from GU had SRU out to a 2-1 lead after two innings.
After GU scored two runs in third and added another pair on fourth, senior outfielder Caitlyn Mackelvey started a four-run fifth inning rally by taking a pitch off her body. Redshirt freshman Adeline Nicholson and freshman utility player Maggie Moore both notched RBI singles and sophomore catcher Leah Vith’s walk scored Mackelvey to push SRU into the lead.
SRU would hold on to pick up a crucial win in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference-West while also stopping a five-game losing streak. Rice pointed to the win in starting a little bit of momentum going forward.
“With momentum, some people believe in it and some people don’t. I do. Softball is a game of streaks and it’s about prolonging the good ones and trying to eliminate the bad ones,” Rice said. “For us, it was, ‘we know we’re a good team, we know we can win. We just needed to get out of this funk as quickly as possible.’”
Sophomore ace Camie Shumaker was on the mound for game one and picked up the win despite a subpar effort by her own standards. Going just five innings, Shumaker allowed three earned runs on eight hits.
With a brief rest, Shumaker returned to the mound to begin game two. She went four and one-third innings, giving up just one earned run on five hits. Rice attributed SRU’s ability to hang around in basically every game to Shumaker’s dominance on the mound this season.
With the game tied at one upon Shumaker’s exit from the game, freshman pitcher Chloe Sharman entered the game and lasted just a third of an inning. Back-to-back home runs from the Golden Knights broke the game wide open.
With two outs in the inning, an error from Becca Roesch left a runner on first and third. The next batter hit a three-run home run and a solo home run followed that up. Rice emphasized SRU mistakes allowed the Golden Knights to take control of the game.
Another run in the seventh inning iced the game and the costly error from SRU came back to haunt the team.
Rice expressed how tough teaching players to bounce back from errors and losing streaks can be and emphasized mental fortitude in battling through adversity.
“It’s really not in the game or in that moment but it’s in practice and in the offseason. It’s teaching them that before we even get in that situation that the ball finds you. Once you make an error, the ball finds you. You have to be mentally strong enough to be able to endure that and push it behind you,” Rice said.
Despite losing six of the last seven games, SRU remains in the thick of the playoff race at 5-5 in the PSAC-West. Rice said winning and maintaining a high win percentage always feels good but, at the end of the day, the ultimate goal is winning a PSAC Championship.
“It put things into perspective. Obviously, we look at some of the games lost and go, ‘crap.’ We really could be in first if we had just won this game or had a timely hit in that game,” explained Rice. “We’ve been in a little bit of a rough patch but realize where we are in the conference. That’s what matters most.”
With five PSAC-West doubleheaders remaining this season, Rice explained how the team does not have any glaring red flags that need to be addressed. However, she said the team still has not gelled to the point of finding ways to win under pressure.
“We’ve seen it a little bit but it’s the timely, big hits. We needed one at Seton Hill. We were in the sixth and seventh inning of that second game and we win with a big it. Same thing when we played Mercyhurst and lost 2-1. If we come up with a big hit, we win that game. We make that one big play against Gannon; the game is very different,” Rice said.
After a day of rest, SRU will be back in action at the SRU Softball Complex on Saturday. The opening pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.