By JAMIR WILSON
With only eight games remaining within Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) play, Salisbury (14-12, 3-1 CAC) faces the reality that few opportunities remain to beef up their resume and win. Saturday was a bright day for the Sea Gulls as the Southern Virginia University Knights (9-17, 0-6 CAC) came to town for a doubleheader.
Game One: Salisbury 17, Southern Va. 2
In the first game of action Saturday afternoon, the Sea Gull offense took flight in the second and third innings, combining for 15 runs.
“It’s nice to see our offense explode the way I know we should be doing all of the time because we have a ton of power on the team,” SU junior right fielder LeAnne Collins said. “It was nice to see consistent pop off the bat the whole game.”
The 17 runs scored by Salisbury against Southern Virginia matched their season high from February against Olivet.
Collins was the star at the plate going 3-for-4, including her first career home run, which was an accomplishment she has been striving for three years now to obtain.
“It’s about time; it took me long enough, but it felt good,” Collins said.
Southern Virginia seemed poised to make it a competitive game early on when freshman shortstop Mykayla Johnson hit a two-run home run in the first inning to give the Knights a 2-0 lead. Salisbury quickly matched the effort with two runs in the bottom of the first.
From the first inning on, the Sea Gulls received dominant pitching performances by their junior starting pitcher Rachael Milligan and then sophomore Brooke Mizelle.
“I felt really good about my performance. I felt very in control of my pitches, which is something I’ve been struggling with throughout the season,” Milligan said. “I also feel that we made a lot of good plays in the field, which gave me a lot of confidence.”
The Salisbury pitching staff has experienced up and down performances all season, so it was encouraging that Milligan and Mizelle had so much success. The maroon and gold’s batters helped the cause by scoring a monstrous amount of runs.
“It feels awesome, especially since I don’t participate in the offensive part of the team. It’s great to have a team that’s very strong hitting,” Milligan said.
The offense can get hot and have a big game at any time, and Southern Virginia’s pitching staff saw their full potential reached.
“We had 14 hits so that’s a good thing, we did a good job of bringing home runners instead of leaving them on base, so that’s excellent for our team,” SU head coach Margie Knight said.
Senior outfielder Caitlin Lake and sophomore infielder Amelia Trotter combined for five hits and four runs batted in (RBI). Freshman catcher Emily Allen knocked a pitch over the outfield fence, bringing in three runs at one point.
When the pitching staff and batters are both playing as well as they did against Southern Virginia, the Sea Gulls will be difficult to defeat.
“Rachael Milligan settled down after the first inning—she pitched much better, and then Brooke came in and gave us a nice performance,” coach Knight said.
Game Two: Salisbury 11, Southern Va. 2
The Gulls’ doubleheader sweep of SVU was complete after an 11-2 victory in the second game on Saturday. The win brings the Sea Gulls to two games over .500 and 3-1 in the CAC this season.
Scoring in the double digits in three of the last four games, the Salisbury offense is hitting a hot streak as they move forward. The hitting spree has seen contributions from various players in the lineup for the maroon and gold.
SU freshman shortstop Kaila Beach and junior first baseman Kristen Yanarella shined at the plate. Beach went 3-for-3 with two RBIs and a home run while Yanarella finished 2-for-3 at the plate, bringing in three runs and adding in a home run.
The defense behind the pitching has struggled throughout the season, but they limited their errors to one and surrendered zero unearned runs.
“We gave up two earned runs. That’s better than it was before, so we’re negating the unearned runs, which is moving in the right direction,” coach Knight said.
Sophomore pitcher Shannon Powell took the mound for the Sea Gulls. Powell had three strikeouts while giving up five hits and two earned runs. Mizelle came in to relieve for one inning and did not give up a hit.
“Shannon did well. I know she struggled in the second inning, but she really came back refocused and put the batters away,” Rachael Milligan said.
“Brooke did awesome, and it felt good to know that I had a strong relief pitcher that came in and shut them down both games.”
Salisbury jumped on top of Southern Virginia immediately in the bottom of the first inning.
Collins started the explosive five-run inning with a single. Junior second baseman Annie Pietanza, Allen and Beach brought home runs later on in the inning.
Freshman utility player Brooke Yerger, Lake and Yanarella also provided hits at the plate.
Freshman pitcher Megan Harmon was one of the few bright spots for Southern Virginia in the second game, going 1-for-3 with two RBIs.
The Knights’ freshman starting pitcher Megan Stapley struggled immensely, giving up 11 hits, 11 runs and walking five batters.
Salisbury is ready for the bulk of conference play with improvements on the mound and a newfound hot streak at the plate.
“I think we’re ready. We’ve had a lot of bumps along the road, but I think it made the team tougher,” Collins said. “We’re prepared and finally looking like the team we should have looked like from day one.”
Salisbury takes on conference rival Frostburg St. at home for another doubleheader on Sunday.