Pioneers split with nationally-ranked Cardinals

Nick Woodman, Staff Writer 

Taking a road trip to face No. 12 nationally ranked St. John Fisher, the Utica College softball team faced a daunting task last weekend. The Pioneers were up to the challenge.

Sophomore first baseman Sabrina Stransky went 2-for-3 in UC’s 2-0 win over St. John Fisher in the second game of the doubleheader on Saturday. Photo by Jeff Pexton.

While losing the first game of the two-game set might knock a regular team out of the game mentally, that wasn’t the case for UC as the Pioneers rallied to win the second game and split the weekend series.

“We try to go into every game with the mindset that we are going to give it all we have and that we are going to play our game no matter who we are playing,” senior pitcher Abby Monroe said. “After the first game the vibe among the team was positive.  I think we hit their pitcher well in the first game and that gave us confidence going into game two that we had a solid shot of putting more runs on the board.”

In the first game, after three scoreless innings, the Pioneers took a 2-0 lead in the top of the fourth inning as junior Kassidy Ogren hit a two-run shot to give UC the lead.  The Cardinals answered in the bottom of the fifth to score three runs on four hits to take the lead.  Fisher added an insurance run in the sixth inning, and in the process improved to 13-2 on the year.

Seniors Alysa Russell and Cassie Smith as well as sophomore Kimberly Beattie had one hit each.  Sophomore Brittany Meka struck out two over six innings of work. The Pioneers went on to lose 4-2.

With all this built-up confidence, the Pioneers made a push for the second game, playing great defense to keep St. John Fisher scoreless in the second game.

“After the first game, we all were mad that we lost but we weren’t going to let that stop us,” freshman Nicole Rice said. “We had a team talk and came out stronger and played to our very best ability. I knew that my teammates weren’t going to give up because we all had the same intent that we wanted to show Fisher just who Utica College softball is.”

In the second game, Monroe struck out a career-high 13 batters and hit an RBI single to help lift the Pioneers.  Monroe, who is the college’s career strikeout leader, now has 63 strikeouts in nine appearances this season.

UC took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning as Rice ripped a single down the left field line to score sophomore Rachel Baker. The Pioneers added another run in the sixth as Monroe helped her own cause by driving in sophomore Sabrina Stransky.

That was all Monroe needed. Despite giving up a couple of hits in the sixth inning, the Pioneers held on for the 2-0 win. UC improved to 10-10 overall and 1-1 in conference play. They’ll head to Stevens Institute of Technology Saturday for a doubleheader and Ithaca College Sunday for another twin bill.

Smith says if the team starts to hit better, they have a chance at earning a conference title.

“I think we have a great team full of great players,” she said. “The only thing we need to do each game is bring our bats. If we can hit the ball like we know how to, then nobody will beat us.”