Behind intact pitching, softball sweeps opening weekend in dominant fashion

| Senior Sports Editor

Every year senior ace Annie Pitkin has been on the Washington University softball pitching staff, she’s improved. As a freshman, she put together a 3.28 ERA in 111 innings. As a sophomore, it was 1.96 in 167.2. In her junior and most recent season, she twirled a 1.62 ERA in 169.0. It is not clear where her ceiling may be in her final season, but she is also excited about seeing the same development in the rest of the Bears pitching staff.

“As a freshman, every single day is brand new, the whole experience of going through a game, a bus trip, the UAA tournament in Florida, every morning practice, you just don’t know what to expect,” Pitkin said. “You come back as a sophomore and you’ve just come off that freshman season, and you can’t wait for it to start again because you realize how great it was. And I think those three sophomore pitchers have worked so hard this offseason…because they know what it takes to get to the end of the season and still have some gas left.”

The three other pitchers Pitkin is referring to are a trio of sophomore pitchers, Maggie Clapp, Anna McKee and Mackenzie Gauden, who all saw time on the mound during their freshman season. During their rookie campaigns, all three enjoyed significant success on the mound. Clapp finished with a 2.55 ERA over 71.1 innings over 22 appearances, eight starts. Gauden had similar numbers, with a 2.28 ERA over 55.1 innings, 21 appearances, 10 of them starts. McKee saw the least action of the three, but she still pitched to a 2.86 ERA in 14.2 innings.

In the Bears’ opening weekend, two games against Westminster College and Hendrix College each, the quartet of Pitkin and her sophomores helped the Bears flex the pitching muscle that earned Wash. U. a No. 8 billing in the national preseason poll. In alternating games between Westminster and Henrix, the Bears swept the weekend slate, earning victories, 7-4, 10-0 (five innings), 12-3 (five innings) and 8-0.

In the first game of the weekend, Gauden earned the Saturday afternoon win by pitching five and one third innings of two run ball, surrendering six hits and striking out four. McKee finished off the sixth, giving up two runs in the process. After inducing a flyout and issuing a walk to start off the bottom of the seven, Clapp came in and induced a ground ball double play to seal the 7-4 victory. Junior left fielder Hannah Mehrle, fresh off her 0.396 sophomore season, went 4-4 and knocked in three RBIs for the Bears on a bases loaded triple in the top of the second. The Bears were also lifted by a pair of freshman middle infielders, shortstop Taylor Arends and second baseman Josi Elders. In the first action of their collegiate careers, the duo combined to go 4-6 with two RBIs and four runs scored.

“We knew during the recruiting process—we knew we were looking for people to fill key roles, the middle infield,” head coach Leticia Pineda-Boutte said. “We were fortunate to find some great kids that are competitive and were ready to go and fill those positions right away.”

In the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader, Pitkin announced her senior season with the familiar crack of ball on catcher’s mitt. In just five innings of a mercy-shortened game, Pitkin threw a one hitter, registering 11 strikeouts.

Mehrle, Arends and junior right fielder Kenzie James collected 3 hits each as the Bears collected 10 runs and 15 hits.

On Saturday, Clapp and Gauden also only needed to put together five innings as the Bears capitalized on three errors in the fourth inning to score nine runs, eight unearned. As the starter, Clapp’s lone blemish on the afternoon came when she surrendered a home run after a pair of errors put two runners on base. She still notched her first win of the season.

In the Bears’ final game of the weekend, it was Pitkins’ game once again. This time, with seven innings to work with, she earned the victory, allowed three hits and tallied nine strikeouts. Senior first baseman Brooke Hofer provided the big blow for the Bears in the fifth, when she lined a bases-clearing double down the right field line. She would finish the game 3-4 with four RBIs.

The Bears will have a weekend off before they travel to Clermont, Fla. for the Spring Games round-robin. There they will have a four game set against Bethany College (W.V.), Austin College, Haverford College and Susquehanna College.

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