BY CHRIS MACKOWIAK
In this past week’s rankings, the Salisbury University Softball team moved up to No. 5 in NCAA Division III.
In a double header against the University of Mary Washington on Saturday, the Sea Gulls proved why they deserve a top five spot.
The Sea Gulls (29-4, 11-1 CAC) displayed pure dominance with 12-1 and 10-1 results over Mary Washington (11-27, 6-8 CAC).
In the first game, Salisbury started the production off early with two runs due to an Eagles’ throwing error, and an RBI single from third baseman Katie Sebbane, which scored pitcher Annah Brittingham.
The single would be the start of a brilliant afternoon for the Sea Gulls third baseman as she went two for three at the plate including a run scored and a team-leading four RBIs.
During the bottom half of the second inning, the Sea Gulls broke open the game by plating eight runs, including a three RBI double for Sebbane.
“I was very confident going up to bat,” Sebbane said. “I knew I had speed in front of me, so any little poke I knew would score one or two.”
Meanwhile at the mound, there was little to worry about as Brittingham came out in dominant fashion.
The starting pitcher accumulated a total of five innings of work, three strikeouts, and no hits, while only giving up two walks.
At the start of the fourth inning, Sea Gulls’ head coach Margie Knight did bring in pitcher Annie Pietanza as relief. However, Pietanza quickly gave up four straight singles to the Eagles along with their only run of the game.
Knight went back out to put Brittingham back into the game in order to ensure the victory.
“We were actually resting her for tomorrow, but we’ve done this before where we always tell our starting pitcher ‘hey, you need to still be ready to go back in,” Knight said. “So, I have 100% confidence in Annah (Brittingham), and I have complete 100% confidence in Annie (Pietanza) too.”
For the rest of the game, Brittingham shut down the Mary Washington lineup to claim her 13th victory of the season in the 12-1 Salisbury win.
Mary Washington starting pitcher Courtney Merson took the loss for the Eagles while giving up 10 runs on seven hits in one and two-thirds innings.
Mary Washington was plagued by errors in the game which defined their difficulty in closing out innings. All 12 runs scored came across while the Sea Gulls had two outs in an inning.
In the second game, the Sea Gulls took down the Eagles 10-1 as Salisbury’s bats continued to produce.
The first inning included five runs for Salisbury. Fielding problems continued to be the story for Mary Washington, as they contributed to two of the SU runs in the inning.
Sebbane continued her stellar day with an RBI double to score Kim Dorsey. It was Sebbane’s fifth RBI of the afternoon.
Sea Gull’s second baseman Molly Simpson was the offensive star of the second game. A triple in the first inning scored right fielder LeAnne Collins for the first run of the game. Simpson ended the game a double shy of the cycle while achieving a single and then a solo home run in the third inning.
Both catcher Paige Knussman and left fielder Caitlin Lake added RBI triples of their own in the second and third innings, respectively.
In the circle, Salisbury pitcher Brooke Mizelle received the starting nod to claim her 16th victory of the season with four innings of work, while only giving up one run on five hits.
SU reliever Shannon Powell got her fifth appearance of the season to close the game with a strong fifth inning performance including one strikeout.
On the losing end for Mary Washington was Kara Deppy who lasted only one-third of an inning giving up five runs.
The wins solidified Salisbury in first place of the CAC standings with an 11-1 record, one game up on Christopher Newport (10-2) entering the final days of the CAC regular season.
This caps off an impressive season turnaround for the Sea Gulls. After starting the season 2-3, the team has a 27-1 record since then.
Sebbane described the turnaround, “In the very beginning, we knew what we had to work on. We really worked on it at practice and said ‘we’re not where we need to be. This is what we need to focus on.’ I think we’re realizing what our potential actually is, so we’re just exploding and rolling with it. Our mind set is see the ball, crush the ball to really beat out opponents. We’re hungry.”
Behind pitchers Shannon Powell, Pietanza, Brittingham and Mizelle, the team accumulates an earned run average of 1.57, which ranks first in the CAC and ninth in DIII. However, a lot of the success comes through the defense.
The Sea Gulls have a 0.965 fielding percentage which ranks second in conference and 27th in DIII. Even in the double header today, multiple plays by 3B Sebbane, RF Collins, among others stamped a win for Salisbury.
“For the no-hitters I’ve had, they’ve been playing defense behind me. Having them behind me makes me even more confident to know ‘(the opposing team) can hit the ball and I know (my teammates) will catch it and throw them out,” Brittingham said.
The Sea Gulls will try and build off the win against Frostburg State on Sunday.
Salisbury has a chance to clinch home-field advantage and the number one seed in the CAC with a sweep of the Bobcats.
“I would love it. I mean it’s nice not having to travel and not having to miss class. But it gives us an advantage, home-field advantage. So I’m really excited and I hope that we secure it,” Brittingham said.