Softball Off to Slow Start in Patriot League Play: Raiders Drop Three of Four to Lehigh

In their first Patriot League matchup of the season, the Colgate Softball team had a tough weekend, going 1-3 against the Lehigh Mountain Hawks. The Raiders are currently 18-8 after a weekend of tight games, all of which were decided by one run. Lehigh improved to 17-9 on the season.

On Saturday, the first game, a 0-1 pitchers duel, was decided in the fourth inning when a double by Lehigh scored the only run of the game. Colgate did threaten in the seventh when sophomore Stephanie Hartquist singled to lead off the inning and then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by junior captain Nicole Siedhof. Unfortunately, Hartquist was stranded at second, ending the game. Pitching for Colgate, sophomore Michelle Hollebeke threw a complete game, allowing five hits and striking out two. Also in this game, first-year Alana Dyson’s fifteen game hitting streak came to an end.

That afternoon, the Raiders again found themselves in a tight game; this one would be decided in the bottom of the seventh. The lead was exchanged many times throughout the game as both teams’ offenses fought hard for the upper hand. In the top of the first, Hartquist struck a single which scored Dyson who had been on second.

By the close of the top of the second, Colgate had extended its lead to 4-0 with a pair of run-scoring singles by first-year Emmie Dolfi and Dyson. Senior Melissa Babb-Renta added to the score with a sacrifice fly. Lehigh scored their first run in the bottom of the second.

In the top of the third, Colgate received a boost from fist-year Natalie Siedhof whose sacrifice fly scored Hartquist. Lehigh struck back in the bottom of that inning, scoring four and tying the game.

This tie would not last long when, in the top of the fourth, the Raiders scored four more runs, punctuated by a three run home run to left by Nicole Siedhof. This was her third of the season. Three more runs from Lehigh in the bottom of the inning kept the game close. Down 9-8, Lehigh rallied for two runs in the bottom of the seventh to win the game. The final score was 10-9.

Notably, Hartquist was four for four in the second game while sophomore Amanda Zranchev collected three hits during the game. The team combined for 11 hits and produced three errors, leading to three unearned runs.

As of this season, a new rule created by Patriot League coaches states that on the second day of a weekend long series, the visiting team acts as the home team. This new rule would play a prominent role in Sunday’s games as Colgate took advantage of their position as home team to secure the win in the second game in the bottom of the seventh.

On Sunday morning, however, Colgate squandered another early lead as they lost 5-4. Although Lehigh found themselves on the scoreboard first, Colgate answered in the bottom of the fourth. Dolfi blasted a two-out double to score Hartquist, who had singled to left, and junior Brittany Hanrahan.

In the next inning, the Raiders stretched their lead to 4-1 when sophomore captain Jennifer Ortega crushed a two-run home run over the centerfield fence, scoring Dyson. Scoring three in the top of the sixth, Lehigh seized a lead which they would not relinquish, scoring once more to finalize their win. Hollebeke took the loss,

falling to 9-5 on the season.

Finishing the weekend with a 2-1 win, Colgate capitalized on a great outing by junior Lacy Ver Steeg who pitched four innings, not giving up a run and striking out five. First-year Courtney O’Connell closed the game out, holding the Mountain Hawks to one run and striking out two.

Colgate scored in their first and last innings at the plate. In the first, Dyson singled and scored on a single by Nicole Siedhof. After Lehigh answered in the fifth, Hartquist untied the game in the seventh with a sacrifice fly to plate Zranchev. Hartquist is currently ranked eighteenth in the country for sacrifice flies.

In reflecting on the weekend as a whole, Coach Sax was pleased with how her team compared to their Patriot League foe, Lehigh.

“What we learned this weekend is that Lehigh and Colgate matchup well,” Coach Sax said. “On any given day either ballclub can win, give or take a pitch, an error or a run.”

Coach Sax also reviewed the performances of her pitching staff, highlighting Hollebeke and Ver Steeg’s contributions to the team.

“Michelle Hollebeke has the talent and the ability to shutdown Lehigh’s hitters,” Head Coach Vickie Sax commented. “She will need to focus on building more endurance in the next five weeks and staying healthy. Colgate softball is going to go places when Hollebeke learns to ‘slam the door’. She needs to be our leader in finishing the game as strong as we start.”

“Another positive that came out of this weekend’s play was junior Lacy Ver Steeg,” Coach Sax added. “She has been nursing her shoulder back to health after surgery last August. On Sunday she was able to shut down Lehigh in four innings with a pitch count of 72. That is the most effective performance she has had in well over a year! Her control and poise was enlightening to see. She raised the defensive level of competitiveness for the Raiders.”

On Thursday, April 8 Colgate will play their home opener against Marist. The Raiders have faced Marist twice this season and have a record of 1-1 against them.