Softball drops double-header before bouncing back to close out opening weekend

| Senior Sports Editor

The Washington University women’s softball team resumed competitive play Friday, falling in both games of its season opening double-header against Transylvania University. The next day, though, the Bears rebounded to defeat Buena Vista University 9-2. The contests were the team’s first since March 8 of last year.

Courtesy of Melanie Schaefer / WashU Athletics

Junior Holly Stoner pitches during the Bears’ opening weekend. Stoner struggled Friday against Transylvania, allowing seven runs in one inning, but held Buena Vista scoreless in two innings Saturday.

In the games against Transylvania, Washington University struggled to keep the Pioneers off the scoreboard. Despite putting up nine runs—including six in the second contest—the Bears allowed the Pioneers to manufacture 26 runs over the course of the two-game series. After getting blown out 15-3 in their first game back, the Bears lost by a more modest 11-6 score in the nightcap.

The game against Buena Vista was an entirely different story. Bears pitchers juniors Holly Stoner and Madison Denton tossed a complete game while only allowing two runs. Stoner delivered five quality innings, giving up only one earned run and striking out three Beavers hitters.

On the offensive end, the Bears finally burst out the gates. After jumping out to a 4-0 lead against Buena Vista thanks to two two-run frames in the opening innings, Wash. U. sophomore Tami Wong cracked a triple to blow the game open and give the Bears a 6-0 edge. The Bears never relinquished the lead. 

[From February: Tami Wong on her pandemic hobbies and what might come of the spring softball season]

Wash. U. hitters seemed to warm up over the course of the three-game opening set. By the end of the weekend, nearly every player had reached base at least once. The Bears offense was bolstered by senior captain Natasha Ramakrishnan—who recorded a hit in all three contests—and first baseman junior Nicole Hay, who knocked in three runs while maintaining a .400 batting average. 

The Bears’ general approach at the plate encouraged Hay. “We were able to string hits together, so the majority of time we were getting runs, we were scoring two, three, or even four runs [in an inning],” she said. “It’s nice to give our pitchers a little more breathing room on the mound.”

Head coach Michelle Venturella was also happy with the efforts from her squad. She was especially proud of the team’s resilient play on Saturday. “I was really pleased to see them kind of bounce back and score the first on day two and continue to put the pressure on after [Buena Vista] just came off of a big win,” Venturella said. “[Buena Vista] just had a seven-run inning in their seventh inning in a game just prior, and then 20 minutes later, they’re starting our game. I thought we did a great job of just playing our game that day.”

The Bears had faced a number of hurdles before play resumed. It’s hard enough to jump right back into competition after almost a year off, but Wash. U. players also had to contend with the fact that their field hadn’t been in good enough shape to play on for months because of poor weather conditions. 

Nevertheless, the players were incredibly excited to finally get back to playing softball. “The first day, our first few games 100% felt surreal,” Hay said. “All of us were just like, ‘This is crazy. How are we playing right now?’ But by the second day, we were all kind of like, ‘This is a real thing.’ And I think [by] game three, we were all focused and in it and felt like old times for sure.”

Venturella was also proud of the steady leadership of the team’s captains, who have helped guide the Bears through the uncertain times. In addition to Ramakrishnan, senior Kendall Schwartz and junior Kirsten Drabek are team captains. “I cannot tell you how proud I am for the job they’ve done so far with this team as captains, and I know they have made a difference, I’m sure in some ways that I don’t even know,” Venturella said.

Looking forward, Wash. U will compete in up to five games in the upcoming days, with two road contests at Westminster College tomorrow afternoon and a three-game series at home this weekend against Wartburg College. Weather may again be a factor; with some rain expected this upcoming weekend, Venturella isn’t sure whether the Bears will be able to fit in the full weekend series. Nevertheless, Bears players and coaches are learning to embrace the uncertainty. “We know nothing’s guaranteed,” Venturella said. “When we do have the opportunity, we’re just really looking to take advantage of that and leave it on the field.”

The Bears are back (at least some of them). Here are stories of Wash. U. athletics’ return to action:

With victory over Division I University of Northern Iowa, Madara secures first victory as head coach

One swimmer’s journey from professional table tennis to WU’s first pandemic-era in-person competition

Two years after shaking with nerves in his first appearance, Matt Lopes cannot wait to get back on the mound


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