By DREW KESSLER
Featured photo: The Sea Gulls celebrate a successful play. Feb. 24. Emma Reider photo
The Salisbury University softball pitching staff and defense led the Sea Gulls to two victories on Sunday. After going 1-1 on the opening day of the Sea Gull Early Bird Tournament, SU improved their record to 3-1 with two convincing victories over Keystone College and The College of New Jersey.
Game No. 1: Keystone 0, Salisbury 4
SU started day two of the tournament in strong fashion. Junior pitcher Shannon Powell threw a complete game shutout victory, giving up only three hits for her first win of the season.
“It felt good to go deep into the ball game,” Powell said. “I felt like that I got stronger as the game went along.”
The small ball approach and the usage of great speed on the team came into play for the Sea Gulls to produce their offense in the victory.
The Sea Gull offense was quiet for the first two innings of the game only getting one hit. Then the offense came alive in the third inning scoring three runs.
Junior right fielder Cat Ramagnano began the inning with a lead-off walk, later scoring off a bunt single from senior outfielder LeAnne Collins. Sophomore catcher Emily Allen also delivered in the third inning with an RBI double into right-center field giving Salisbury a 3-0 lead.
Salisbury added one more run in the fourth inning with Ramagnano scoring again from a fielder’s choice off the bat of sophomore shortstop Dakotah Fraley, notching her fifth RBI of the season.
Powell shut Keystone down the rest of the game after leading last season’s team with in ERA and innings pitched. Alongside strong defensive plays, the ace pitcher allowed the Giants to only gain three hits.
Helping the junior pitcher too was Ramagnano’s arm in right field two times in the game. In the top of the fifth inning, Keystone’s Kassidi Woods lined a one-hopper to right field. Ramagnano fielded it and got the ball into SU first baseman Kristen Yanarella before the Giant reached for the hit.
Later in the sixth inning, Ramagnano threw out Keystone shortstop Paige Mokychic attempting to advance to third base on a fly out. Without hitting the field, the throw went right to the glove of SU third baseman Amelia Trotter to get the out.
“We made some very good improvements from yesterday’s games with getting a little sharper on defense,” SU Head Coach Margie Knight said. “Cat can throw the ball from the right field fence to third base on the fly and she doesn’t have to worry about bouncing it with short hopping the throws to the infielders with her arm strength.”
Game No. 2: Salisbury 7, TCNJ 1
The Sea Gulls got revenge on The College of New Jersey after losing to the Lions 6-4 Saturday afternoon. The Sea Gulls and Lions both had six hits each for Sunday’s game with the difference coming in the fourth inning.
It was a pitcher’s duel on both sides. Each team only had one hit through the first three innings. For SU, Collins had the only hit to that point, a lead-off triple that stranded her in the end.
“LeAnne set the table early for this game, we didn’t score but she came out banging and set the mentality for the rest of the game,” Coach Knight said.
Salisbury did not get another hit until the fourth inning, when the Sea Gulls exploded for six runs. SU shortstop Dakotah Fraley started things off with a base hit.
Eventually, Yanarella capitalized with the bases loaded to score Fraley and put SU up 1-0. However, Trotter had the big swing of the game coming on a bases-loaded 3-2 count. The Salisbury third baseman unloaded the bases with a grand slam to lift the Sea Gulls to a 6-0 lead.
“The entire at-bat I went up with a two-strike approach and getting close to the plate with battling off a couple of inside pitches and expecting to get a strike on the 3-2 pitch,” Trotter said.
The Sea Gulls added one more insurance run in the seventh inning as freshman Madeira Alexander brought home Collins on a sacrifice fly.
In the circle, the Sea Gulls were aided by a stellar performance from starting pitcher Alexis Layton. In her first career start for the Sea Gulls, Layton went 5 1/3 innings, allowing five hits and only one earned run.
“The team had my back the whole time through and I had theirs, so it just made it that much easier,” Layton said. “The defense remained calm throughout the whole game even when we were in pressure situations we all remained calm all the way through and we just did our jobs.”
Finishing off the game from the circle was freshman Brea Bishop, allowing one hit over 1 2/3 innings. Making her collegiate debut this weekend, the North Caroline (Md.) graduate pitched a total of 6 2/3 innings, giving up only one earned run over the weekend.
“We had three very good pitching performances. Emily Allen called great games behind the plate, and Alexis Layton had a great performance today,” Coach Knight said. “Two tight games and we only give up one run and score 11 runs. I’ll take that every day.”
“Brea did great this weekend with being able to perform like she did, and when one of her pitches wasn’t working, she was able to mix it up and get groundball outs.”
Salisbury finished the Sea Gull Early Bird Tournament with a 3-1 record. The Sea Gulls will be back home this upcoming weekend as they host the Salisbury University Softball Tournament when Clarkson University and Washington College will visit on Saturday.