Softball Takes Three of Four From Black Knights

Paul Kasabian and Bill Stoklosa

After a 2007 season in which the softball team reached the NCAA tournament and gave top-ranked Oklahoma all it could handle in the first round, the Colgate Raiders are struggling mightily after the loss of a stellar senior class led by starting pitcher Kelsey Nordstrom, who was the 2007 Patriot League tournament MVP. However, even after getting swept in a four-games series by Lafayette(12-4 PL) last weekend, fourth-place Colgate(4-8 Patriot League) is still in position to make the conference tournament since they are in the top four of their conference, but the Raiders will need to hold off Holy Cross(3-9 PL) and Army(5-11 PL) to do so.

In game one at Metzler Field in Easton, Pennsylvania, Lafayette jumped out to an early 5-0 lead and never looked back en route to a 5-1 win. A walk, a double, and a throwing error led to two Leopard runs in the bottom of the first inning. In the bottom of the second inning, Lafayette went on a two-out, three-run rally thanks to two Colgate errors and two hits of their own. Senior shortstop LaPorscha Albert knocked in Colgate’s only run in the sixth inning on a fielder’s choice and that was all she wrote. Senior corner infielder Whitney Scott continued her torrid hitting this season by going two-for-two at the plate. On the flip side, Lafayette catcher Stacey Kushner hit two doubles, scored two runs and knocked in a run to pace the Leopard offense. On the pitching mound, Colgate first-year pitcher Jesse McCarrick and Lafayette hurler Ali Henry almost had matching statlines. Both pitchers went the distance, having given up six hits, one earned run and one walk. However, McCarrick struck out six Leopards, while Henry set aside three Raiders.

Game two was an extra-inning heartbreaker for the Raiders, as they scored two runs in the seventh inning only to lose in extras, 5-4. In the top of the first inning, junior left fielder Ashley Rowe executed the suicide squeeze to perfection and knocked in Kortney Hannah, who had started the frame with a double. Colgate first-year pitcher Lacy Ver Steeg threw smoke in the first two innings, striking out three while allowing only one hit. Unfortunately, the third inning was a problematic frame for the Raiders. Ver Steeg began to lose her control, throwing two wild pitches and hitting two batters. She also allowed three hits, but thankfully, the Leopards only ended the inning up one run. Unfortunately, the control problems continued in the fourth inning after she allowed two bases-on-balls and hit a batter. McCarrick came in to replace Ver Steeg, and Lafayette second bagger Kristen Ruckno hit a single to score another run. Colgate got another run in the fifth inning when junior first basemen Meg Mylan drove in Rowe with a single, but the Raiders still needed one more run to close the 3-2 gap. In the seventh inning, the gritty Colgate squad bore down managed to go on a two-out, two-run rally to extend the game. One of the two great athletes named Scott at Colgate, this one being Whitney, started things up with a single. An Albert single down the right field line let Scott scamper to third, and she scored when Mylan went the other way with a one-bagger. With runners on the corners, sophomore Amanda Eccleston hit a grounder to Lafayette shortstop Christina Giambrone that was muffed. Everyone was safe, and Albert scored. The rally would end there however with a fielder’s choice.

Colgate found itself three outs away from taking down the current Patriot League leaders. However, Lafayette’s Kasey Karr hit a monstrous home run to tie the game to swing the momentum back to the Leopards’ side. Lafayette didn’t get any more runs in that inning, but after Colgate went down one-two-three in the eighth, Giambrone made up for her previous fielding transgressions by doubling in Kushner for the win. Rowe, Scott and Mylan each had two hits for Colgate, while Kushner continued her torrid hitting by going three-for-three.

Game three was instantly forgettable, as Lafayette scored a whopping eleven runs in the first inning en route to winning the game, 13-5. Scott doubled in centerfielder Tiana Tyseky and Albert singled in Scott in the first inning to give the Raiders a 2-0 lead. However, Lafayette went on a mind-boggling rally in the first inning to put the game away. The first six batters reached base before Price and Garganio got out. Then the next five hitters reached base before the inning ended. Robyn Matchett and Ruckno each got two hits in the inning. McCarrick, who started the game for Colgate, was removed from the game after one inning. Although she had a tough outing, the defense did not offer any help, as two more errors were committed behind her. Colgate got three in the second to hold off a potential mercy ruling, but Lafayette scored two in the third inning, and the mercy rule was invoked after four-and-a-half innings. Four Leopards got at least two hits, and two Leopards scored three runs.

Game four had the same theme as game two in this series, as Colgate let up some late runs and eventually lost the game, 5-4. Thanks to two errors and some timely hitting, the Raiders jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the third inning. The Leopards got one back in the third, but Scott, who had suddenly morphed into Mickey Mantle overnight, jacked a two-run homer in the fifth inning to give Colgate a 4-1 lead. Scott, who has four homers in the last eight games, has been playing spectacularly as of late.

“She’s playing relaxed and focused,” Head Coach Vickie Sax said, analyzing her slugger’s play. “She’s not over thinking things and she’s enjoying her last few days on the diamond.”

Meanwhile, Ver Steeg was simply on fire, giving up only five hits and one run while striking out five in five innings. Unfortunately, the Leopards cracked the Ver Steeg Code in the sixth. Karr doubled in Giambrone, and Ruckno scored on an RBI groundout, cutting the Colgate lead to one. Just two outs away from defeat, third baseman Kristin Garganio put the Leopards on her shoulder and hit the game-winning two-run homer. Colgate got runners on second and third with two outs but couldn’t come up with a rally of its own. Both this game and game two on Saturday attested to the fact that the Raiders need to learn how to close out tight ballgames. The coach believes this is due to a lack of experience.

“We need to be tough, not get complacent, and learn to finish strong,” Sax said. “Our pitching staff is young and inexperienced. Only game time can groom them for successful experiences down the road.”

The Raiders have to play two more four-game series against Patriot League rivals Lehigh and Holy Cross before they close out the season. Success in these games will be paramount if Colgate wishes to qualify for the Patriot League playoffs. According to Coach Sax the key will be a focus on the fundamentals.

The Raiders will obtain success “by being focused and getting the ‘little things’ right,” Sax said. “That means bunt placement, hitting the cut, not walking batters, and making routine plays.”

The Raiders had better get the “little things” right soon because time is quickly running out on their season.