The softball team began SUNYAC play the weekend of Saturday, April 5 and Sunday, April 6 with a home-field advantage at Mary Gray Deane Field.
The Lady Hawks, with a current overall record of 5-11 and 2-2 record in SUNYAC play, split two doubleheaders against SUNY Cortland and SUNY Oswego.
On April 5, game one went to the Lady Hawks, who defeated the Lady Red Dragons 5-4. This is the first time the program has defeated Cortland since April 27, 1996.
Both teams traded runs in the early innings. New Paltz took the lead once again in the bottom of the third, when second-year catcher/infielder Jordan Fiore drove in third-year pinch-runner Juliette Verso with a single up the middle.
The Lady Hawks added two unearned insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth. Those runs would prove as vital insurance, as Cortland scored twice in the sixth and left the bases loaded when the inning ended with a pop-up to third-year Captain Meg Brewer.
With the tying run on third base for the Lady Red Dragons, New Paltz got out of a jam in the top of the seventh to preserve the historic victory.
Second-year pitcher Katie Rutcofsky earned the win in the circle for the Hawks, yielding four runs (three earned) off seven hits, three walks and three hit by pitches, while striking out two.
In the nightcap portion of the doubleheader, the Lady Hawks were defeated 6-2 by the Lady Red Dragons.
Fourth-year Captain Chelsea Kull singled through the right side with two outs and drove in two runs to pull New Paltz within one at 3-2 in the third. That score would hold until the sixth, when Cortland plated a run off an RBI single to left field.
The Lady Red Dragons added insurance in the seventh, scoring two runs off three hits and one error in the inning.
Head Coach Brittany Robinson said the team went into the series knowing that Cortland would be a good team and was confident that as a result of facing good competition previously, the team could hang with their opposition and beat anybody.
On April 6, the Lady Hawks split a doubleheader against Oswego.
The Lady Hawks took game one 4-3.
New Paltz held a 4-0 lead in the third-inning. The Lakers fought back in the fifth scoring three runs.
Oswego stranded the tying run on third base as they flied out to right field. This secured a New Paltz victory.
Pitching was the key in game one, Robinson said.
“We were without our No. 1 pitcher during the series,” she said. “We had to make a pitching adjustment. I think [fourth-year pitcher] Amber Carozza did a really good job in the first game, getting them to hit ground balls and stepping up big in situations when we needed to get the outs.”
Game two of the doubleheader needed extra innings to be decided, with Oswego ending the game scoring five runs in the top half of the eigth inning.
The Lady Hawks answered back with a run in the home half of the eighth, but it was not enough as the Lakers sealed the victory 7-3.
“[Third-year pitcher] Erika Traina did a great job of keeping us in the game. After giving up two runs early, she really shut them down pretty much after that,” Robinson said. “When we had the opportunities to win the game, we just didn’t take advantage of them, and Oswego did.”
Robinson said the team had the attitude that they can beat any team at any time after the game one victory against Cortland.
“After we beat Cortland, the girls didn’t say, ‘we hung with them and tweaked out a win,’ she said. “They said, ‘we’re a better team than they are. We can be better than anybody in this conference.’ Going into this season, that was my goal. It was to make them see that you can’t just say, ‘oh, we can hang around with them, we can come close to beating them.’ It’s, ‘we have to believe that we can beat any team at any time, because nobody’s going to be that much better than we are.’”
Brewer said the team must work in posing as a triple-threat to prepare for their upcoming games.
“We have strength in offense, pitching and defense, but bringing all three together every game would make a huge difference in our team’s success,” she said.
On Wednesday, April 9 the Lady Hawks dropped both games of a road doubleheader against Western Connecticut State University. Robinson said the team wants to work on some things, but not overwork while preparing for the upcoming stretch of 10 games in seven days.
“There’s not much practice time in-between,” she said. “The main thing is getting mentally prepared for that many games and really trying to keep it up. Figuring out how to keep that focus up during a doubleheader is key.”
This stretch begins with a doubleheader against SUNY Oneonta beginning at 3 p.m. at Mary Gray Deane Field on Friday, April 11.