Softball Meets ToughTest in APU

In a doubleheader that took place last Saturday, Pomona-Pitzer softball played its first games of the season against the visiting Cougars of Azusa Pacific University. P-P dropped the first game in a close 3-1 loss, and then lost the second game 8-0 in a run-rule shutout that ended the game in the sixth inning.

Despite APU’s sweep, it was a respectable first outing for the Sagehens, especially considering that their opponent was a competitive NCAA Division II team. In the first game of the doubleheader, a rough fourth inning was a main contributor to P-P’s defeat; a wild pitch with runners in scoring position resulted in APU scoring two of their three runs. For the rest of the game, however, the Sagehens held the Cougars to only one earned run despite nine hits. Offensively for the Sagehens, Caitlyn Hynes PO ’14 recorded the Sagehens’ only hit of the game. Hynes doubled to reach base in the fourth inning, then crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly to left field from Lindsay McCord PZ ’16, scoring the Sagehens’ only run.

In game two of the doubleheader, the Sagehens again held their opponents to only one run for the first three innings, but then their defense began to crumble. The team’s combined four errors led to four runs of APU’s eight, and the game ended early in the sixth inning by the mercy rule. P-P batters recorded only two hits in the loss: one single each from Hynes and Ashley Morello PZ ’15.

Saturday’s games marked the college debuts for pitchers Bianca Cockrell PO ’17 and Eden Griffen PZ ’17. Cockrell, who pitched the entirety of game one, got off to a particularly solid start: In the 30 batters she faced, Cockrell allowed zero walks and only one earned run. Griffen, who took over for the second game, also had a respectable first outing; although the second game ended with a final score of 8-0, only four of the Cougars’ runs were earned. Such a promising start against a DII team bodes well for the team’s outlook this season, as these two first-years may be the main components of the Hens pitching staff this year. Hynes, who had been a staple in the Sagehens’ pitching rotation for the past three seasons, is playing first base this year due to an injury. 

The Sagehen outfield has also suffered the loss of Leah Bleichner PO ’15, who is currently studying abroad. Bleichner was a NFCA Third-Team All-West Region pick in 2012 and a force the past two years both in the field and at bat. Although Bleichner’s absence leaves a sizable gap, the outfield still has plenty of depth between the gloves of returners Morello and Susanne Boden PO ’16. The Sagehens have also lost the contributions of other key players, notably catchers Kathryn Rabak PO ’13 and Emily Glass PO ’15. The pitching talent of Fiona Riley PO ’15 and the hitting of Jessica Liu PO ’15, who both left the team after last season, will also be missed this season. Despite these losses, the Sagehen roster remains strong, featuring 11 returning upperclassmen and a number of first-years who have already logged their first playing times.

Although the Sagehens did not emerge from the weekend with a victory, the three-month season has just begun, and the coaching staff is optimistic about what is to come. Head coach JoAnne Ferguson says that she is “very pleased with the readiness from our pitchers, Cockrell and Griffen. Both pitchers had a strong first outing on the mound.”

Ferguson is also happy with the way the rest of the team played: “Our defense was solid in the first game and we completed the entire game. It is still very early in the season and it will take some time for our bats to literally ‘get into the swing of things.’ Overall, it was a positive showing against a strong Division II team. I’m excited about the 2014 [season] and what this team can do.”

Hynes was in agreement: “Despite the outcome, I’m happy with the way we played. I thought we did really well against a DII team and I think we have great potential for the rest of the season,” she said.

After hosting Lewis and Clark College on Thursday, the team is set to travel to Costa Mesa to take on Vanguard University for another doubleheader this Saturday. It will be their last non-conference matchup before facing California Lutheran University at an away game on Feb. 15. P-P softball is typically very competitive against SCIAC teams, and it can be expected that the 2014 season (which features nonstop conference play with the exception of a Spring Break tournament in Arizona and a following matchup against Willamette University) will be one worth watching.

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