Softball Falters as Defensive Lapses Mount

After winning three-of-four games from Army, the Raider softball team came back to earth last week, suffering through a 1-5 week against Lafayette and Niagara. The Raiders lost three-of-four games against the Leopards last weekend before dropping a pair of games to Niagara on Tuesday, both decided by one run.

Senior Kate Howard delivered another sparkling pitching performance in Tuesday’s opener, yielding two runs on four hits, while striking out five and walking two. However, two Raider errors proved costly in the second inning, which helped Niagara load the bases with two outs. Jamie Constantz then delivered the eventual game-winning two-run single.

Colgate immediately responded with a run in the third inning. Sophomore Jessi Bentovoja singled and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from first-year Calla Yee. Classmate Tiana Tyeskey singled to right, and Bentovoja scored when Niagara right fielder Kelly Flaherty misplayed the ball. But for the game, Colgate managed only five hits against Niagara’s Tiffany McCrory, none for extra bases. Niagara held on for a 2-1 win.

In the nightcap, first-year Ashley Rowe delivered her best pitching performance so far this season. She did not surrender an earned run and gave up only three hits in addition to three strikeouts and four walks. But five Colgate errors in the field and only three hits at the plate proved critical. In the third inning, Colgate committed three errors alone that allowed Niagara to load the bases. Jennifer Yee then drew a walk, scoring Constantz. In the fifth, Tory Healy reached on an error, scoring Constantz for the second time in the game.

Nevertheless, despite their defensive shortcomings, the Raiders mounted a comeback. With two outs in the sixth, Tyeskey delivered an RBI single to score Yee, who had singled and advanced to third on successive groundouts. In the seventh, Rowe walked to lead off the inning. After Niagara starter Brooke Viola retired sophomore Whitney Scott on a pop-up and struck out first-year Meg Mylan, Vicky Ortengren reached on an error by left fielder Heather Lohrman and Rowe scored on the play to tie the game at two.

But in the bottom of the inning, Lohrman led off with a double to the left center field gap. After a single and a Colgate throwing error on the play, Lohrman scored the game-winning run.

The Raiders had similar bad luck in Saturday’s nightcap. Colgate took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning when sophomore LaPorscha Albert scored on an RBI groundout from Ortengren. Rowe, who came on in relief of junior Kelsey Nordstrom, made the lead stand until the final inning. With two on and one out, Lafayette’s Lauren Belowich hit a three-run walk-off homer to give the Leopards a surprise 3-1 win and a doubleheader sweep, having won 6-1 earlier in the day.

On Sunday, Howard and Rowe teamed up to lead Colgate to a strong 5-1 win in the early game. Howard surrendered a homer to the Leopard’s Kristen Ruckno in the first, but yielded only one more hit the rest of the way. She struck out five and walked just two en route to her 11th win of the season.

Rowe tied the game in the third with her fourth homer of the season, and then delivered a two-run double in the fifth to give Colgate the lead. Scott and Albert followed with RBI singles to pad the Raider advantage.

In the finale, Lafayette used a three-hitter from Belowich and a three-run fourth inning to win 3-0. The big play came when Michelle Ellis hit a two-run triple off of Nordstrom.

Howard praised Rowe’s improved pitching against Lafayette and Niagara. “Ashley’s been working so hard at getting better each week and it really came together this weekend,” she said. “We’re all supporting her, and her improvement gives us more confidence that we can win games I don’t pitch in.”

The Raiders are 13-18 overall, 6-6 in league play. This weekend, the team faces a difficult test when the Raiders visit Patriot League leader Lehigh for four games. The series could play a huge role in determining whether or not they will qualify for the league tournament. Despite last week’s setbacks, Howard insisted that the Raiders still believe they can succeed.

“We’re not going to give up easily because we still think we can win the Patriot League Tournament.”