Softball Wins Seven Out of Eight

Steve Sheridan

The Colgate softball team returned to the Eaton Street Field this week almost one year after playing its last home game, and the team seemed to enjoy its belated homecoming. Sophomore Kelsey Nordstrom and junior Kate Howard combined to throw five complete games as the Raiders swept four games from the Lafayette Leopards by a combined score of 23-2 and split a doubleheader with the Bucknell Bison.

For head coach Vickie Sax and the Raider squad, it was certainly nice to be back at home – and busy, too.

“Unquestionably, we are thrilled to finally be back in Hamilton playing some ballgames,” Sax said. “But the shame of it all is that now that we’re back playing on our field, we are cramming 12 games into nine days. No wonder our pitchers’ arms are sore!”

In Saturday’s two games, the Raiders relied heavily on the right arms of Nordstrom and Howard and won, 3-0 and 3-1.

In the first game, Nordstrom rebounded from a tough ending to her last outing against Binghamton by tossing a four-hit shutout, her first of the season. As usual, Nordstrom did her best to blow the opposition away, racking up 11 strikeouts – matching a season high that she set against the Bearcats – and only allowing two Lafayette players to reach second base.

Offensively, the Raiders did not need much production. The team scratched together a run in both the second and third innings, the first coming on a sacrifice fly by junior Erin Hanna and the second

on a line drive home run by senior captain Dorothy Donaldson. First-year catcher Erin Gomez, who went 3-for-3 on the afternoon, added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth with an RBI single.

In the second half of the twinbill, Howard did not allow herself to be upstaged. The Wheaton, IL native scattered six hits over seven innings, only allowing one unearned run to cross the plate in the top of the sixth inning. Howard, who came off of a one-inning, three-run performance last Tuesday against Binghamton, managed to right the ship despite tying a season high with five walks.

The two wins on Saturday also gave Sax 200 victories in her eight seasons as the Raider manager.

Despite the fact that Nordstrom and Howard dominated once again on Sunday, the story of the day was the Raider offense. The team busted out for nine runs in game one and eight in game two as the team invoked the eight-run mercy rule twice on the Leopards, winning 9-1 in six innings and 8-0 in five.

In the opener, Colgate jumped out early on Lafayette starter Lauren Belowich, thanks to a first inning RBI single by first-year Whitney Scott. The team then tacked on individual runs in the third and fourth innings before putting up two in the fifth and four in the sixth to end the contest early.

The offense overshadowed another excellent performance by Nordstrom, as the sophomore gave up only two hits and one earned run in six innings. The Salina, KS native retired the first nine Leopards of the afternoon before giving up her only run of the game in the fourth inning on a two-out double by Lafayette first baseman Kristin Ruckno.

“Kelsey is really finding her comfort zone,” Sax said. “[But] good pitchers have to have a good receiver, and I think she’s found that in Erin Gomez. That battery has really ignited, and we are looking for big results this weekend.”

In the second half of the doubleheader, first-year Erin O’Keefe had herself a career day, smashing two home runs and knocking in a career-high six runs.

O’Keefe struck first in the second inning against Lafayette hurler Megan Averbuch. After narrowly staying alive on a 2-2 fastball, O’Keefe send Averbuch’s next pitch over the left field fence to give the Raiders a three-run lead, which was more than enough for Howard, who gave up no runs on only two hits. O’Keefe and senior Natalie Rawson added RBI singles in the third inning that, along with an error by Leopard right fielder Sam Lucas, enlarged the lead to 6-0.

In the fifth inning, however, O’Keefe provided the final blow of the day. After Hanna reached on a fielder’s choice, O’Keefe hit a towering shot that broke a bulb on the left field scoreboard and gave the Raiders another mercy rule victory.

“We are very excited that Erin O’Keefe is fitting the bill of being a big hitter,” Sax said enthusiastically. “But that’s what we saw in her as a recruit: her ability to hit the ball long and with power.”

After extending their winning streak over Lafayette to 20 games, the Raiders stumbled somewhat by splitting a doubleheader with league cellar-dweller Bucknell on Tuesday afternoon.

In game one, Nordstrom continued her recent excellence, allowing only a bunt single in the fifth inning and leading her team to a 4-0 win. The Raiders got all the offense they would need in the first inning on an RBI double by senior Nichole Rawson, but also added another run in the second and two more in the bottom of the fifth thanks to a two-run blast from Donaldson.

In game two, the Raiders ran in to some trouble against the Bison, who came into game two with an 0-9 league mark.

After a scoreless first three innings, Howard surrendered a two-run home run to Bucknell’s Megan Fink in the top of the fourth – the first time Colgate had trailed at home this season. Howard was then pulled in favor of Nordstrom, who allowed two unearned runs to cross the plate in the following inning.

The Raiders attempted to come back, scoring one run in the fourth and two in the sixth – on a fielder’s choice and a wild pitch – but the Raiders could not plate the tying run and fell at home for the first time this season, 4-3.

The Raiders, who now sit at 15-13 overall and 7-3 in the Patriot League after a non-league doubleheader yesterday against Siena, have a very important four-game series with league-leading Lehigh this weekend at the Eaton Street Field, as the team continues in the midst of a 12-game home stand, its only one of the season.