May 06, 2016 by Nick Maloney
In many cases, sports can be simplified into a series of runs, an oscillation of advantages that often change hands from one opponent to another throughout the course of a contest. You often hear of a shooter on the basketball court who has the hot hand, a golfer whose stroke seems to be in just the perfect groove during a round, or even a tennis player whose serves are grazing the line.
In the fickle nature of softball, where the various streaks and slumps of the players are perhaps at the most easily perceivable, finding yourself on the beneficial side of these stretches of fortune can be the deciding factor between a forgettable season and a very productive year.
Unfortunately, this season the Drexel University softball team has been on the wrong side of the see-saw of fate and their up-and-down year continued this past week.
After being swept by Hofstra University April 24, the Dragons entered their double-header against University of Maryland Eastern Shore at the bottom of the conference looking up. Despite some close calls, the team remained was unable to pick a single win in their 16 outings against Colonial Athletic Association opponents and the matchup with the Hawks offered a priceless opportunity to build some confidence and momentum before another weekend series against league rivals.
Drexel took this opportunity and truly ran with it, an effort spearheaded by a pitching staff anxious to show what it was made of. Over the previous three games, the pitching staff had let in a total of 34 runs, which by any standard is a deficit too hefty for any offense to overcome.
Sophomore Katie Haley was especially eager to turn things around for herself, as she had surrendered a total of 15 earned runs in her last 4.2 innings of play, but turn things around she did indeed.
A three-run fourth inning highlighted by Taylor Lee’s solo home run and Kimberly Chan’s double proved more than enough offense for Haley, who allowed just five hits and struck out four batters over the course of the game – a 5-0 shutout victory, her first shutout this season.
In the second leg of the double-header, Tara Konopka continued the Dragons’ dominant pitching. She was able to put the past few rough games behind her rather quickly, stifling the UMES batters throughout the day.
As Konopka piled up the zeros in the defensive halves of the innings, Baeley Reed got the offense rolling in the third inning. Her single scored Vanessa Lightfoot from third, and just two batters later Paula Ueno followed suit with a two-RBI hit of her own.
Though this was all Konopka needed to secure a victory, Kai Uyesaka provided some insurance in the fifth inning with a three-run drive over the left field wall to put the game effectively out of reach. With two more runs in the bottom half of the sixth, bringing their total to 8, the mercy rule came into effect. The chapter closed on a sterling three-hit shutout performance by their senior pitcher, getting the boost of confidence they so needed.
As has been the cruel nature of the season, the pendulum of fortune swung all too quickly back to their opponents’ side. Katie Haley took the hill again for the Dragons and produced another excellent start for her team, this time against the University of North Carolina Wilmington on the Dragons’ Senior Day, April 30.
It seemed as if the lineup rallied around her. After a scoreless first three innings, Haley finally surrendered her first run in more than 10 innings of play, which was promptly erased in the very next frame by a resounding two-run home run by Taylor Lee, scoring Paula Ueno from first.
The game remained close for the rest of the afternoon until a single by Merritt Wilkinson knotted the ballgame at 2. The Dragons were unable to respond as a leadoff batter reached base for the Seahawks, and Tara Konopka could not keep the game level, letting in three runs that effectively closed the door on a first CAA victory.
The second contest was more of the same: a scoreless matchup for the first four innings before UNCW ended with a flurry of seven runs in the last three frames, resulting in a 7-2 defeat for the Dragons.
Unfortunately, that was the end of the weekend’s festivities as Mother Nature intervened May 1 to cancel the day’s scheduled series finale. The Dragons will have to wait until the weekend series with Charleston May 6, their last of the regular season, to seek out their elusive first CAA victory. If not, they hope to secure a few wins in next week’s CAA Championships in Harrisonburg, Virginia.