Softball finishes stretch 5-1

Nealer awarded NCAC Player of the Week after strong weekend

Sports Editor
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It was a busy week for Allegheny Softball, playing six double headers in a four day span, ending the stretch 5-1.

On Saturday April 5th, the Gators (10-1, 5-1NCAC) squared off against Denison College in their first conference matchup, dropping their sole loss of the week to the Big Red during the second bout of the day.

The Gators dominated the first game using timely hitting and a staunch defense behind Caitlin Nealer’s, ’15, impressive effort on the mound. Nealer pitched all six innings while allowing only three hits with eight strikeouts.

Allegheny led 3-0 heading into the fifth when a scoring run behind Belle Mazurik’s, ’16, double to center field put the game out of reach. Halea Hayden, ’14, scored on Mazurik’s hit and the next at bat, junior slugger Sadie Stuart blasted a home run to make it 6-0. The Gators scored two more runs in the sixth inning to cement the score at 8-0. Hayden, Mazurik and Stuart each recorded two hits while Stuart led all players with 4 RBIs.

The rematch later that day proved tougher for the Gators as they dropped a 0-3 decision. Freshman pitcher Allison Cabo was credited with the loss, pitching two innings and allowing four hits with three strikeouts. Denison took the early lead as Meghan Edwards blasted a home run to put the Big Red up 2-0. Another Denison homer in the third pushed the score to 3-0. Nealer relieved Cabo the following inning and pitched the remainder of the game. The Gators normally explosive offense was unable to find their stride and managed only one hit in the loss.

Allegheny rebounded on Sunday afternoon, defeating Ohio Wesleyan 1-0 and 2-0 in back to back contests. The first game was a defensive struggle as neither offense was able to produce. Halea Hayden’s homerun in the bottom of the third was the only score in the contest and the outfielder had two out of the three total Gator hits. Nealer continued her dominance on the mound as she pitched the full seven innings with a whopping ten strikeouts.

The second game was similar to the first. Hayden again provided in the clutch as her single in the third drove home Margaret Clarke, ’17, to make it 1-0. The score remained the same for several innings until Katrina George’s, ’15, shot to right center scored Stuart to make it 2-0. Denison showed signs of life in the top of the seventh but a failed stolen base stifled the Big Red’s momentum and the game ended on a strikeout, stranding one batter on base. Nealer pitched the entirety of the game and grabbed her seventh win of the year.

Nealer was awarded the NCAC Player of the Week for her efforts and said that she owes much of her success to her teammates.

“I’m honored to receive the award,” Nealer said. “It’s great to be noticed and it also reflects on the whole team. Without them behind me putting in 100 percent effort every play I wouldn’t be as successful.”

Head Coach Beth Curtiss said that Nealer has been an integral part of her team’s success this season.

“One of the biggest reasons we were able to win all four of them was because of the outstanding pitching,” said Curtiss. “Caitlin gave up only two runs in her first three wins of conference play.  She was dominating on the mound.  She is also a great leader for our program and provides us with offensive power as well.  I can’t say enough about Caitlin.”

The Gators’ win streak continued on Wednesday as they swept visiting Wooster College. The first contest remained scoreless until the fifth inning when Hailey Marthaler, ’16, singled, driving home Clarke and making it 1-0. Wooster answered immediately the following inning, as a homerun and Gator fielding error allowed them to take the 2-1 lead. Sadie Stuart singled in the bottom of the sixth and Hannah Blinn, ’17, drove her home to tie it up. After a defensive stand in the top of the seventh, the Gators entered the bottom of the inning looking to put the game away. Junior Leah Herlocker proved to be the difference maker as she singled and then scored two plays later on a fielding error, giving the Gators a 3-2 win.

The Gators relied on a comeback surge in their final game, battling back from a four run deficit to escape with the narrow 5-4 victory. Wooster dominated the first four innings behind a three run scoring streak in the third. Allegheny then chopped their deficit to three as Nealer singled and drove in Clarke. The score stayed the same until the fifth when Hayden and Miranda Arison,’17, drew back to back walks to put the Gators in scoring position. The next at bat George blasted a double to right center and scored Arison. Stuart then stole home on a wild pitch to tie the game at four and end the inning.

The sixth inning proved to be the deciding factor as Arison drew her second walk of the game and was immediately driven home on a Mazurik single, giving the Gators their first lead of the game at 5-4. Allegheny left two on base after Stuart flied out, but it would prove meaningless as the defense shut down Wooster in the seventh to secure the narrow win. Arison was credited with her first career win as she pitched four innings in relief of Nealer. She allowed four hits but had two strikeouts and kept Wooster scoreless for the second half of the game.

“Miranda Arison came in to throw three scoreless innings and get her first win of the season,” said Coach Curtiss. “She proved that she has what it takes to pitch here.”

According to Herlocker, the conference wins have put the Gators in a great position moving forward.

“We’ve started off pretty strong in conference we’re hoping to keep improving,” said Herlocker. “Our games against Witt this weekend are critical and we’re looking to come out early with our bats and sustain a lead. We’re feeling great about our potential through the second part of the NCAC schedule and hopefully beyond that.”

The five conference wins provide a large boost for Allegheny, who is entering a crucial schedule in terms of NCAC standings. The Gators currently sit at second in the conference behind undefeated Depauw University. The teams’ highly anticipated matchup is scheduled for April 19th but first Allegheny must play two very tough squads in Wittenberg and Case Western University. The Gators travel to Springfield, Ohio this Saturday for a doubleheader versus Wittenberg. The first game are slated to begin at 1 p.m.