Softball wins 30th game to close out regular season

| Staff Reporter

Stephen Huber | Student Life

Sophomore starting pitcher Annie Pitkin winds up for a pitch on March 23 against Coe College. Pitkin recorded a perfect game on Thursday against Principia College, adding 12 strikeouts in five innings. Pitkin has a 16-10 record this season with a 1.91 ERA.

With the regular season coming to a close, the Washington University softball team recorded its 30th victory after winning its fourth game of the weekend, but two losses against a regionally ranked opponent left the Bears wondering whether they will make the postseason.

With two dominant shutout wins each over Principia College and Blackburn College sandwiched around a pair of losses at the hands of No. 23 Fontbonne University, Wash. U. finished the regular season with a record of 30-15.

The weekend “was mixed emotions…Unfortunately we would like to at least get one [win] from Fontbonne, but it just wasn’t in the cards. We have a great team, but we just couldn’t get it done,” head coach Leticia Pineda-Boutte said.

The team’s final six-game stretch got off to a flying start as sophomore Annie Pitkin threw the ninth perfect game in school history and Pineda-Boutte earned her 300th career victory as a collegiate head coach. The Bears’ bats came alive as the team run-ruled Principia 10-0 in five innings. Pitkin struck out 12, and seniors Maggie Ingell and Kelsey Neal combined for seven RBIs and four hits, including a double and home run by Neal.

Game two of the doubleheader was shortened to five innings because of rain, but the Bears walked away with a 3-0 victory. Neal and sophomore Brooke Hofer combined to one-hit Principia, and Ingell’s solo homer to center in the second inning was all the support the pitching staff needed.

In a crucial doubleheader at Fontbonne on Friday, the Bears lost two tightly contested games 7-3 and 3-2. The Griffins did the bulk of their damage in the fourth inning of the first game, when they chased Pitkin for five runs on six hits. The inning included a home run and three doubles. Though Wash. U. tallied one run each in the fifth and sixth innings, a two-run homer off Hofer in the sixth sealed the win for the Griffins.

In the second game, the Bears could not overcome a season-high three errors despite a strong pitching effort from Neal, who only gave up one earned run. A seventh-inning rally fell just short as the tying run was stranded on second base, and the Bears fell by one run.

Knowing that any hope of reaching the postseason hinged on sweeping 9-30 Blackburn, the Red and Green bats came alive for a pair of 8-0 victories.

“It feels fabulous; that was exactly what we wanted to do,” Neal said. “‘I said to everyone [Friday] night that we can’t control what happens after [Saturday] but we can control what happens [Saturday]. If [Saturday’s] the end, I’d like to end on two wins. No matter what happens, that’s the way that you want to go out.”

“Today was a testament to the girls in that they weren’t satisfied and hadn’t given up or anything like that. Hats off to them for playing great ball today,” Pineda-Boutte said.

In the first game, the Bears racked up nine singles and took advantage of five Blackburn errors to run-rule the Beavers in five innings. Pitkin and Hofer combined for a two-hitter as Pitkin picked up her 16th win of the season and struck out eight.

Blackburn committed three errors in the second game of the doubleheader, and the Bears tallied 16 hits to end the regular season on a positive note. Neal pitched four strong innings and struck out three to pick up the win, her eighth of the year.

“Hitting a ball is one of the best feelings, one of the best releases of all of this Wash. U. finals stress, so being able to do that individually and as a team is incredible. There’s nothing more you can ask for,” Ingell said.

With six hits in the final six games, Ingell is just three hits shy of tying the Bears’ all-time record of 220, held by three-time All-American Liz Swary (’05). Already Wash. U.’s all-time leader in runs scored with 156, Ingell will require postseason play to add another school record to her name.

“I told the team after the last game today, ‘These were the best four years of my life. I wouldn’t have spent them with anyone else.’ They’re my family,” Ingell said.

As of April 9, Wash. U. had played the eighth-toughest schedule in Division III, and two games, albeit losses, against No. 23 Fontbonne (31-5 record) will only aid their opponents’ winning percentage, which is one of the factors that will determine their postseason fate. Nonetheless, the 7-3 and 3-2 losses certainly will not help the Red and Green.

The softball team’s senior class of Stacy Berg, Claire Henkel, Ingell and Neal has accumulated a record of 121-50-1 (.708 winning percentage) in four seasons and made the postseason twice. The team will learn if it will make its 12th postseason trip in 13 seasons at 9 a.m. on Monday, May 5.