Trailing by two runs with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning against Lock Haven University, senior shortstop Kailey Myers represented the winning run at the plate for the Slippery Rock University softball team.
Due to the plate with a runner on first and second base, Myers walked down the third base line to have a quick word with SRU head coach Stacey Rice before her at-bat.
Suffering through an early-season slump, Rice reassured her star senior that no matter the outcome of the at-bat, the entire team believed in her.
“I said, ‘Everybody here believes that you can do it,’” Rice encouraged. “She’s struggling a little bit this season, but she’s also our Player of the Year last year and we still believe in her. I said, ‘If everyone here believes in you, don’t be the one who doesn’t.’”
Ultimately, Myers swung hard on a pitch early in the count and ground out to the second baseman for the final out in the game.
Despite SRU’s (8-13, 0-0 PSAC) 0-2 and 5-7 losses to LHU (11-9, 0-0), Rice listed a few encouraging signs heading into Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference play from Myers and the whole squad.
“Although we didn’t come out with wins today, it definitely got us back in a groove. We played Clarion on Thursday and then we kind of sat for a little bit, so it was nice to have a good, competitive game and some really good pitching. That just really helps us get back on that regular game pace that we’re used to,” said Rice.
Sophomore pitcher Camie Shumaker took the mound in game one and picked a loss despite another strong performance. Shumaker pitched all seven innings and allowed just two runs on nine hits while striking out a season-high 10 batters.
However, Rock batters struck out 14 times to LHU’s Bekah Slattery and were only able to muster two hits in support.
Even with the offensive surge against Clarion University last Thursday, Rice said the lack of run support this season was not yet worrying but it was certainly defeating.
“It’s definitely frustrating because when your pitchers are throwing well, you hope your offense shows up,” said Rice. “We struggled with that a little bit down in Florida, our pitchers were throwing very well, and we just couldn’t get hits.”
Senior second baseman Megan Brown was the only player in a Green and White jersey to reach base, collecting two hits in her three at-bats.
Heading into game two, Rice expressed her pleasure with how the Green and White transitioned from a tough game one but, ultimately, it was too little, too late.
“They handled themselves very well transitioning. Things are kind of hard when you give them 14 strikeouts in game one and you really have to have a short memory heading into game two. I think they did that,” Rice said.
Freshman pitcher Chloe Sharman took the loss in game two, going four and two-thirds innings. Sharman allowed two earned runs, five total, on seven hits while striking out five batters.
Game two proved to be an eventful affair in which SRU could never seem to quite close the gap on the scoreboard.
Trailing 7-1 after the top half of the sixth inning, SRU batters finally found their swing.
“It’s part of the game. We showed many times that we can hit well, I just think today that we faced two incredibly good pitchers, and we have to just tip our hats to a girl who did her job,” Rice said. “I don’t think it’s a time to panic or worry; I think there were some good things—our bats did come alive, we started figuring some things out—but it was a little too late.”
Senior outfielder Caitlyn Mackelvey started the run with an RBI double—turned triple by an LHU throwing error—which scored Myers and sophomore outfielder Cortney Claypoole.
Walking out to the plate following Mackelvey’s double, junior outfielder Alexa Guglielmino cracked a no-doubt two-run home run to right field to bring the game within two runs.
Following Guglielmino’s home run, LHU inserted pitcher Bekah Slattery—game one’s pitcher—to close the game for the Bald Eagles. Slattery two-hit The Rock in game one and struck out 14 batters.
Senior pitcher Andria Copelli completed a no-run seventh inning in relief of Sharman to give SRU to the opportunity to complete the comeback.
With Myers at the plate and sophomore catcher Leah Vith and freshman infielder Maggie Moore on base, the crowd of roughly 100 people at the SRU Softball Complex buzzed with the possibility of seeing something special at the plate.
Alas, Myers’ ground out continued a disappointing stretch of form from the 2018 PSAC-West Player of the Year. Myers is batting the lowest of all qualified Rock batters, just .158 while having drawn just seven walks compared to 14 strikeouts.
Rice emphasized her belief in Myers, citing her previous prowess at the plate and how quickly a player can go on a streak in softball.
“She’s working through things and I just wanted her to know that I’m confident she can do it,” said Rice. “If anyone can do it, she can. It’s just softball; it’s a game of streaks, and right now she’s in a difficult one.”
With Friday’s doubleheader against California University (Pa.) and Saturday’s doubleheader against Mercyhurst University canceled, The Rock will have a few days to get back to the training field before starting PSAC-West play against Mercyhurst.
Rice said despite picking up two losses, the competitive pitching from LHU was a great taste of what PSAC-West teams will have to offer. However, she pointed to a few issues that need to be dealt with.
“We had some tiny mistakes. We gave up a home run that was supposed to be balls. We were supposed to get her on first. We also have to figure out left field; left field was a little shaky today and really it has been all season. If we can start filling in those small things, I think we’ll be okay.”
The first pitch against Mercyhurst is slated for 2:30 p.m. at the SRU Softball Complex.