Softball splits four games during season-opening weekend
After reeling off eight consecutive wins to begin last season, the Washington University softball team began this season in much different fashion, suffering two defeats while earning two blowout victories over the weekend in Conway, Ark.
Despite a strong performance from sophomore outfielder Janet Taylor, who hit 6 for 7 with a homer and 10 RBIs in four games, the Bears lost 5-1 to DePauw University on Saturday afternoon before defeating Maryville University (Tenn.) 11-0. On Sunday, the Bears crushed Maryville 12-0 and lost to host Rhodes College 4-3.
In their season opener, the Bears started quickly with an early run, which would prove to be their only score of the game. However, the Tigers responded with a two-run homer in the second inning to gain a 2-1 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. In the sixth inning, DePauw put the game away for good with three runs on just two singles by taking advantage of two stolen bases, a walk, a passed ball and a hit by pitch.
Junior pitcher Annie Pitkin tossed a complete game on the mound, conceding six hits and five runs (four earned) in six innings of work. It was an unusually inconsistent performance for Pitkin, who led the team with a 1.96 ERA last season. She pointed to nerves as a contributing factor in her first start of the season.
“In all my seasons at Wash. U., my first game is almost always the most jittery. It’s the only game in the season where my legs shake a little bit when I’m out on the mound,” Pitkin said. “Even as we get into conference play and the postseason, I don’t usually feel that ever. Today it just got the best of me.”
Although the Bears outhit DePauw 7-6, the Red and Green succeeded on just one of five stolen-base attempts—their aggressive base-running strategy backfired and extinguished a few scoring opportunities while DePauw had six steals on eight attempts. According to head coach Leticia Pineda-Boutte, the Bears’ inability to manufacture runs on offense made it difficult for Pitkin to be effective on the mound.
“It’s much easier to pitch when you have a cushion. Your arm is a lot looser. Unfortunately, our offense just didn’t get anything going. We couldn’t help her out and [DePauw] ended up capitalizing on that,” Pineda-Boutte said.
Right after suffering their season-opening loss, the Bears awakened their bats with an 11-0 victory over Maryville.
Just like last game, Wash. U. jumped out to an early lead, this time scoring three runs on three hits in the first inning. Taylor kicked off the scoring with a two-RBI double to right field, and senior Sydney Caldwell followed that with an RBI single. The Bears’ offense exploded for five more runs in the second inning and three more in the third to help the team cruise to the blowout victory.
“We’ve graduated some big bats, and to see different players on the team step up in the second game was huge,” Pitkin said. “We talked about how it’s going to be a scrappy year for us in terms of how the lineup is going to hit. We’ll just have to see how we can put it all together.”
Freshman pitcher Anna McKee fired four shutout innings and gave up just three hits to earn a convincing win in her collegiate debut while fellow freshman Maggie Clapp threw a perfect fifth inning in relief.
“We have a very talented pitching staff this year. Anna [McKee] is definitely part of that staff. It was no surprise to us because we’ve seen that before from Anna,” Pineda-Boutte said. “We kind of expected it because she’s been doing so well in practice. We can go a long way with this staff.”
On Sunday afternoon, Wash. U. dominated Maryville again en route to a 12-0 victory. Taylor led the team with 4 RBIs as six different players drove in a run, and Pitkin bounced back from Saturday’s start to toss 3 2/3 innings of one-hit ball.
In the final game of the weekend, the Bears dug themselves into a deep hole that they couldn’t get out of against Rhodes as the Lynx plated four runs in three innings off McKee. A three-run home run by Taylor brought the Bears back to within one run, but the game was called after the fifth inning due to darkness.
After a long layoff, the Bears return to action on the last weekend of February with four more games at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark.