By JAMIR WILSON
Featured photo: Salisbury looks to make an out at first base. Feb. 24. Emma Reider photo
Behind a potent and quick offense, the Salisbury University softball team came out victorious in game one of the Sea Gull Early Bird Tournament against the Keystone College Giants 12-2. A seven-run second inning sparked the result to the end the game early via mercy rule in the bottom of the fifth.
Entering her 22nd season at the helm, SU Head Coach Margie Knight was impressed with the start from her team.
“I thought we came out swinging the bats extremely well, I was pleased with that,” Knight said. “We were aggressive on the bases did some nice things stretching a single to a double, good way to start the season.”
Multiple hit games came from three Sea Gulls in sophomore catcher Emily Allen, senior center fielder LeAnne Collins and sophomore shortstop Dakotah Fraley.
“I feel like it was a good start for us. We were able to jump on the ball really quickly, and I think it was a good way to start the season on offense,” Collins said.
Small ball was the success tool during the second inning as the Sea Gulls put seven runs on the scoreboard. Salisbury kept the ball in the infield with bunts and well-placed grounders to get batters on base and runners around the base paths.
Once one Sea Gull got a hit at the plate, it became infectious for the rest of the lineup, especially in the second inning.
“When the person in front of you is hitting it makes it a whole lot easier for you to hit,” Collins said.
Salisbury had some success from the plate in the third inning after Collins got on base following a walk. Then, Fraley crushed a pitch over the center field wall for a two-run homerun.
The Lincoln Memorial University transfer Fraley finished her Sea Gull debut perfect at the plate with four hits in four at-bats including two doubles alongside her homerun, all while making strong plays at shortstop.
Junior starting pitcher Shannon Powell took the circle for a quick two-inning appearance and retired Giants batters while only giving up one hit and striking out one batter.
Former Washington College pitcher Alexis Layton came in as a reserve and struck out four batters in just two innings of work.
“The confidence my team has in me and the confidence I had in them, I knew it would work out,” Layton said.
Allowing only three hits to Keystone while putting up 12 runs themselves provided a positive start to the 2018 campaign moving forward.
“I feel like we’re going to feed off the number of hits we had and how aggressive we were at the plate and it’s going to really help us moving forward,” Collins said.
Game No. 2: Salisbury 4, TCNJ 6
Salisbury fell in their second game of the day to the TCNJ Lions 6-4. The Lions were outhit by the Sea Gulls 11-9, but their hits came at more important times with runners in scoring position.
The Lions opened the game up 6-0, scoring three runs in the third and fourth innings. TCNJ took advantage of two hit by pitches in the third inning. Second baseman Annalise Suitovsky and first baseman Madison Levine brought the runners home with a single and double respectively.
Salisbury fought back in the sixth and seventh innings, coming as close as having the tying run at the plate. The seventh inning became a peak pressure situation for both teams, as the Sea Gulls stormed back from a five-run deficit to cut it to 6-4.
The Sea Gull offense faced such a large deficit due to the stellar performance of TCNJ starting pitcher Sam Platt. Platt did not give up a run until the sixth inning and completed her game with a strikeout.
“Sam’s a senior, great experience she plays in a tough league, so she’s seen very good hitters,” Knight said. “She did a good job keeping our batters off balance, I think we figured her out, but it was too late.”
One of the bright spots for the Sea Gulls at the plate was Fraley again who went 3 for 3 against TCNJ and finished the day 7 of 7 at the plate.
“I feel really comfortable with the team, I transferred here this year and it’s been a comfortable fit,” Fraley said. “Whenever I’m comfortable I’m confident and just go out and play the game.”
Kristen Yanarella delivered at the plate as well for the Sea Gulls, going 3 for 4 with a double. The senior first baseman could be a major key to the success of the Sea Gull offense this season.
Starting pitcher Shannon Powell had a difficult outing compared to game one of the doubleheader, allowing five runs on five hits.
Freshman pitcher Brea Bishop came in relief of Powell and pitched four innings, giving up one run, which helped Salisbury stay alive in their comeback attempt.
After having an abundance of high school success, Bishop could tell early on how different the college game is.
“The environment is definitely different, it’s a lot more pressure, and the strike zone is different,” Bishop said.
As the game went on, Bishop began to settle down more and start to retire batters at an efficient pace.
“I got more comfortable, throwing more consistent and felt more confident with my teammates behind me,” Bishop said.
The Sea Gulls play Keystone and TCNJ again on Sunday to finish out the opening weekend at the Sea Gull Early Bird Tournament.
“Our coaching staff learned a lot of things about our players, TCNJ is a great team,” Knight said. “We’ll make some adjustments I know our players are ready to do that, they’re very mindful of what’s going on, and they want to be great.”