Softball scorches Blackburn twice on Senior Day

| Senior Sports Editor

Senior Claire Downs prepares for a hit towards her at first base during the Washington University softball team’s 13-3 win over Blackburn College. The Bears honored their four seniors prior to the doubleheader, and each senior recorded at least one hit on the day.

As she strode to the batter’s box for her first plate appearance on Senior Day, catcher Sondra Polonsky had a promise to keep.

“I actually told my dad that I was going to hit a home run in my first at-bat because my parents are always late, and I wanted them to be on time for Senior Day.”

Polonsky made good on her word, launching a three-run shot over the left-center field fence and helping the Washington University softball team to 13-3 and 7-0 wins over Blackburn College Sunday.

The Bears got to Blackburn early in the opening game, recording six runs on seven hits in the first inning, including Polonsky’s homer. Wash. U. tacked on three more in the second on a homer by junior Stacy Berg and four in the third on a grand slam by junior Kelsey Neal.

Freshman pitcher Annie Pitkin followed up a career-high 15-strikeout performance last weekend with 10 strikeouts in just four innings Sunday. Pitkin picked up her 10th win of the season, with the only blemish a three-run home-run she surrendered in the fourth inning. Freshman Brooke Hofer closed out the five-inning, run-rule shortened game with three outs in relief of Pitkin.

In the second game of the doubleheader, Neal took the mound and delivered five innings of shutout ball, striking out seven while walking none and allowing four hits. Freshman Amanda Kalupa worked two innings of scoreless relief.

Wash. U. extended its win streak to five games and improved its season record to 25-9.

“We’ve been having a lot of ups and downs, and we’ve played really, really well for our past few games,” Polonsky said. “So it’s just great to see us peaking at the right time.”

Although the Bears have six home games remaining, they chose this weekend to honor Polonsky and their three other seniors, Ashley Janssen, Claire Downs and Hilary Stepansky.

Leadoff hitter and center fielder Janssen bumped her team-leading batting average to .470 with hits in three of four at-bats on the day. She drove in three runs in game two as well. Downs picked up two runs and a hit in her second and third starts of the season while Stepansky went 1-3 in game one and crossed the plate in game two.

“These four seniors are really special to this program,” head coach Leticia Pineda-Boutte said. “They’ve all contributed to this program in various ways, and I know we were all pumped up before the game just to make sure we could play Wash. U. softball the way we know how to for those seniors.”

Polonsky, who finished the day 3-for-7, attributed the team’s hot streak to more relaxed play.

“We’ve just been playing really loose and having fun,” she said. “When we think we have to win, we get tight, and then that’s when we start to play badly. We’ve been playing much better defense; we’ve been having great baserunning. Everything is coming together at the right time.”

The Bears have outscored their last four opponents 33-6 as they hit the homestretch of the season.

“It’s just nice to play at this point considering all the weather issues we’ve been having and game cancellations and rescheduled games,” Pineda-Boutte said. “It’s nice to continue to play and continue to get in our rhythm—especially at this time of year.”

The Bears play four more home games in April—doubleheaders Monday against Union University and Friday against Fontbonne University—before heading to Illinois and Indiana for weekend matchups with Monmouth College and DePauw University, respectively.

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