Softball Surpasses 2011 Win Total with Split at Rutgers-Newark
NEWARK - In the final non-conference tune-up before the start of Centennial Conference play, the Swarthmore softball team visited the Rutgers-Newark for a double-header. Saturday also saw the convergence of coaching lines as Swarthmore head coach Renee Clarke found herself opposite her former graduate assistant at Kean, Rutgers-Newark head coach Patti Clarke. After dropping the opener 5-2 to the Scarlet Raiders in their opener, the Garnet held on for a tough 6-5 victory in the nightcap as both mentor and protégée split on the day.
Fresh off a heartbreaking 9-8 loss at Widener on Thursday evening, the Garnet jumped on the board first in Saturday's first game with a run and three hits in the top of the first. Sophomore Jesslyn Lammerts hit a one-out tailing liner that touched down just inside the left-field line and moved to third on a Nicole Aaron single down the third base line. Junior Danielle Seltzer followed with an excuse-me swinging bunt down the third baseline for an infield single to plate Lammerts.
The Scarlet Raiders looked to level in the bottom of the frame against freshman Chelsea Matzko but with a runner on third and just one out, Monico Liotto hit a laser to third which was caught by Rose Pitkin. Pitkin tagged out the runner diving back to third to end the inning.
After the Garnet went 1-2-3 in the top of the second, Rutgers-Newark catcher Gabby Spinella hit a one-out rope back at Matzko. The ball struck Matzko in the thigh and stuck as she moved her glove in time to pin the ball to her body for a sensational catch.
Meanwhile, Matzko's counterpart, Brianna Alicchio, found her groove after the rough first, retiring 11 in a row through the forth.
Rutgers-Newark finally drew level after the Garnet failed to extend its lead with runners on the corners and one out in the top of the fifth. A pair of walks to start the bottom of the fifth ended the day for Matzko, who finished her day allowing just a single hit. Sophomore Sarina Lowe entered for the Garnet and surrendered a one-out single to load the bases before inducing a comebacker to force the runner at home for the second out. With a 2-2 count, Lowe's pitch reached the backstop and the runner slid underneath the tag at the plate to level the game. After a walk loaded the bags once again, Liotto drove a bases-clearing double to the left-center wall to open up a 4-1 lead.
The Garnet clawed one back in the top of the sixth on a one-out single by junior Danielle Seltzer and a two-out RBI double by senior Liz Cushing, her 12th two-bagger of the season.
But Rutgers-Newark answered right back on a single and a three-base throwing error to regain their three-run lead and make the final score 5-2.
It was Rutgers-Newark who took the early lead in the second game of Saturday's double-header. With sophomore ace Melissa O'Connor on the mound for the Garnet, the Scarlet Raiders but put a runner on second with two-outs on a fielding error in the home-half of the first. The next batter doubled to left center for the 1-0 lead and Spinella continued to drive the ball up the middle for the homestanders with a RBI single to make the score 2-0.
Spinella's single was the last hit that O'Connor allowed until the sixth inning as she allowed just a single walk from the second through the fifth.
Swarthmore lit the scoreboard in the top of the third as junior Kate Smayda reached on a fielding error, one of seven Rutgers-Newark errors in the second game, and advanced to second on a Lammerts sacrifice. Aaron reached on another fielding error with Smayda coming around to score to halve the deficit, her team-leading 20th run of the season.
The Garnet finally took the lead in the top of the fifth. Freshman Laurie Sellars started the inning with a sensational seven-pitch at-bat, reaching on an infield single deep into the shortstop hole and moving to second on a Smayda groundout. Lammerts moved Sellars to third with a grounder to the right side and Aaron came through with a clean two-out RBI single up the middle to tie the game. Seltzer followed with a single through the right side with Aaron moving to third, and Pitkin hit a shot that one-hopped the right field fence. With Aaron and Seltzer having already scored, the throw to get Pitkin at third sailed out of play allowing Pitkin to come home as the Garnet took a 5-2 lead.
In the top of the sixth, Swarthmore added an important insurance run. With two-outs, it was Sellars again starting the damage with a patient full-count single through the left side. Smayda grounded into the shortstop hole, and the throw, which might have nailed Smayda if on target, bounced out of play. Sellars, who ran hard on the crack of the bat, had already rounded second when the ball went out of play so her two free bases brought her home with Swarthmore's sixth run.
Sellar's hustle proved the difference as Rutgers-Newark refused to go quietly. A lead-off triple in the bottom of the sixth ended a streak of seven consecutive batters retired by O'Connor and the next batter Liotto hit a sacrifice fly to center to make the score 6-2.
Looking to close out the win, the Garnet picked up two quick outs in the bottom of the seventh before a walk and a single, with the batter advancing to second on a throw, put runners on second and third. Victoria Sovak hammered a two-RBI double to left-center, putting the tying run in scoring position. Liotto hit a hard grounder up the middle that deflected off O'Connor's glove towards Sellars at second who fired to first in time to preserve the win.
With the victory to improve to 8-6 on the season, Swarthmore surpassed its 2011 win total.
The Garnet begins Centennial Conference play with its home-opener on Tuesday, a 3 PM double-header with defending-Centennial-Champion Muhlenberg.