April 1, 2004

Softball Battles Sienna Saints

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The last time Siena College visited Niemand-Robison Field in April of 2003, the softball game was rained out by stormy conditions and never made up. This season, as the rain begins to fall in New York again, and Cornell is gearing up for its Ivy League opener this weekend, the Red is hoping that today’s rematch on the Saints’ turf in Loundonville will yield a result as sunny as the Florida skies.

Coming off a spring break in which the Red (17-7) won 11 out of 15 contests at the Rebel Spring Games and the Stetson Invitational in Florida, the team is hoping to ride this wave of momentum into today’s 3:00 p.m. game at Heritage Park.

“We’re feeling pretty good about this game,” junior shortstop Lauren May said. “We just need to come up big. We need to hit and go out there and play hard.” May and the rest of the squad sustained the Red’s prolific offensive performance over the break, producing 78 runs over the 15 game stretch. The most runs the Red scored in one game — and perhaps the defining moment of the tournaments — came against Jacksonville State when the squad pounded the Gamecocks for 14 runs on 11 hits. This slaughter is even more remarkable, considering that the Red lost both of its previous contests with Jacksonville by a combined score of 24-5.

“The win we had against Jacksonville State was amazing,” May said. “We came back from an 8-0 deficit to win 14-8. The win definitely showed our determination and character.”

It is that determination and character that figures to set the Red in good position to make a run at the Ivy League title. Nevertheless, before the team can set its eyes on the ultimate prize, they must take care of business today.

“Siena has always been a good team,” senior centerfielder and Ivy League Athlete of the Week Kate Varde said. “They have given us good games in the past.”

Before last season’s rainout, the Red defeated the Saints 8-5 behind a home run by Varde and a pair of home runs (including a grand slam) by Erin Sweeney. Current senior Sarah Sterman pitched seven innings and notched six strikeouts in the win.

Now, with a more experienced team and unprecedented talent off the bench, the Red figures to make today another rainy one for the 0-14 Saints.

“We have a much deeper team than we did last year,” Varde said. “Everyone is playing really well and that’s exciting for us.”

Siena has struggled considerably this season, having dropped into a winless abyss with little hope for a quick recovery. Most of the team’s problems have stemmed from a woeful inconsistency at the plate. The Saint’s leading hitter, junior Megan Woltz, has only ten hits on the season and one RBI. Freshman Kelly Boyle is tops on the anemic offense in RBI with four total.

While the Saint’s pitching is not exactly keeping the team in games, there have been some signs of life for Siena on the mound. California native Tara Campbell has struck out 20 batters in 25.2 innings, while rookie Jannelle Iaquinto has been reliable in her first collegiate season, having already pitched two complete games. However, these accomplishments fall short of compensating for the Saint’s team ERA of 7.22.

In spite of these less than exemplary statistics, the Red will approach this day on the field just like any other important game.

“Every team will give us a challenge,” Varde said. “But we feel pretty confident that we can get the job done.”

Varde hopes to prolong her torrid hitting streak, having gone 20-27 over spring break with four homeruns and 17 total hits.

“We finally got our bats going over break,” she said. “We are starting to play like we know how.”

Both Sterman (8-4) and sophomore Whitney Smith (5-2) figure to get significant time starting on the mound both today and Saturday when the Red takes on Columbia in its first Ivy League game of the season. Sophomore Kristen Landis will continue to be used in a relief role.

Archived article by Kyle Sheahen
Sun Assistant Sports Editor