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Skirha’s slam snaps CAA Conference losing streak

Skirha

Senior Jourdan Skirha helped the Drexel University softball team kick off last weekend in dramatic fashion by delivering a pinch-hit walk-off grand slam to give Drexel a 9-7 win over the University of Delaware Blue Hens April 1.

Skirha’s dramatic dinger was the first home run of her career, and it helped the Dragons snap a nearly two-year-old Colonial Athletic Association game losing streak, with the team’s last conference win being April 25, 2015.

“Honestly, at first, I knew it felt really awesome when I hit it, and I knew that the wind was playing a huge factor with all of the balls that were hit up high, so I was really excited at first, and then, kind of, was taken aback because I saw the left fielder going towards it. And then, as I rounded first and saw it was over, I literally sprinted home because I was so excited. Not just because it was my first home run, but it just meant so much breaking the conference losing streak,” Skirha said April 5.

While the wind was playing indeed playing all game long, blowing towards home plate from the left field fence, Skirha got plenty of power behind her swing and drove a frozen rope clear over the fence.

“I didn’t even realize that it was a grand slam, or that we just won on a walk off, until Baeley [Reed] told me afterwards ‘you just hit a grand slam!’ And I was like, wow, you’re right. I don’t know, it was just so unreal. It does mean a lot because, like I said, we haven’t won against a conference opponent in two years, close to,” Skirha said.

Skirha’s grand slam capped a five-run rally in the seventh by the Dragons, which was originally sparked when freshman Taylor Kent led off the inning by reaching first base on an error. Following Kent, senior Vanessa Lightfoot walked to set Drexel up with runners on second and third, and still no one out. Then freshman Linda Rush, a standout in Drexel’s lineup this year, stepped into the box and drove a 1-2 pitch to the warning track, which allowed Kent to score and Lightfoot to reach third base.

With the tying run on second base, sophomore Taylor Lee, the team’s cleanup batter, hit a chopper to Delaware’s pitcher, Jordan Cargile, and was retired for the first out of the inning. Sophomore Kai Uyesaka followed Lee by drawing a walk, which loaded the bases. Freshman Hannah Walker was due up to swing, but Skirha pinch hit, and we all know what happened after that.

The win was credited to senior Tara Konopa, who entered the game at the top of the third inning in relief of junior Katie Haley. Konopa pitched five innings, surrendered just one earned run and struck out four Delaware batters.

Rush finished with an impressive statline, going three for four with a double a two runs scored. Drexel’s freshman first baseman Mari Gardner hit a homerun, the second of her college career.

The following day, Drexel looked to build upon its emotional walk off win and played a doubleheader against the Blue Hens. With momentum on their side, the Dragons took an early 3-1 lead into the top of the third.

The Dragons got on the board in the bottom of the first when Taylor Lee sent a sacrifice fly deep down the right field line, which allowed for the speedy Vanessa Lightfoot to score all the way from second base. Uyesaka drove in Rush later in the inning to extend Drexel’s lead to 2-0.

Delaware scored its first run in the top of the second, but in the bottom half of the frame, Drexel was once again aided by Skirha, who had cracked the starting lineup at third base. This time, with two outs and no one on, Skirha drove a liner into the right centerfield gap for a double. Sophomore Janelle Ladrido followed suit with a base hit that scored Skirha, but Ladrido was thrown out at second trying to stretch a single into a double, thus ending the inning.

With starting pitcher Taylor Curran proving to be ineffective against the Dragons, Delaware made a pitching change in the bottom of the third and brought Jordan Cargile in out of the bullpen.

Despite pitching the entire game in Delaware’s 9-7 loss the day before, Cargile was called upon to stop the bleeding for the Blue Hens, and it was a role she excelled in. Finding her groove early on in the third, Cargile blanked Drexel the rest of the game, pitching five innings of shutout ball.

To go along with Cargile’s dominant relief performance, Delaware’s offense exploded in the final four innings of play. In the top of the third, the Blue Hens scored four runs, three of them due to a homer by Devon Steiner. Delaware then scored a run in the fifth, two runs in the sixth, and three runs in the seventh to cruise to an 11-3 win.

Drexel’s struggles continued into the second game of the double header where Cargile once again earned the start for Delaware. Cargile pieced together a gem, throwing five more shutout innings while giving up just six hits.

The Blue Hens offense managed to score eight runs by the bottom of the fifth, which put the mercy rule into effect. Drexel was unable to get a run across in the bottom of the fifth, and the Blue Hens came away with an 8-0 win.

After giving up nine runs in six and a third innings pitched less than 24 hours prior, Cargile finished the doubleheader with ten shutout innings, and two victories. The Dragons were unable to right the ship in their doubleheader with Delaware State University April 4, losing the first game 4-2 and the second game 1-0.

Headed into the weekend, the Dragons will look to improve upon their 1-5 conference record when they take on CAA foe Elon University. Drexel and Elon will play a doubleheader April 8, with the first game starting at 11 a.m., and the final game of the series will be played at 12 p.m April 9.