By JAMIR WILSON
On March 4, Salisbury University Athletics added another new home to their list of updated facilities with the opening of the brand new Sea Gull Softball Stadium, where they hosted their annual Sea Gull Classic.
The new stadium has a seating capacity of 500 people. The facility includes heated dugouts, a press box located behind home plate and infield clay alongside outfield turf.
The weather on the opening day was not ideal, but the Sea Gull faithful came out in large numbers to experience the event.
Salisbury University President Dr. Janet Dudley-Eshbach kicked off the day with remarks about the wonderful new facilities. Without her efforts and dedication to the athletic program, the new stadium would not have been built.
SU Athletic Director Dr. Gerry DiBartolo, who was vital to the building of the stadium, then gave a few words expressing his excitement about the next chapter of Sea Gull softball.
Similarly to the opening of the Sea Gull Stadium that hosts the field hockey, football and lacrosse teams, there was a ribbon cutting ceremony.
After the ceremony, Dudley-Eshbach’s day was still far from over; she walked to the mound and threw out the opening pitch to SU softball assistant coach Tom Stitcher.
Arguably the most special moment of the pregame ceremonies was when more than 70 former players and coaches came out around home plate and threw out commemorative first pitches.
SU head coach Margie Knight’s 21 years of coaching the maroon and gold has resulted in 19 Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) championships and over 750 wins. The former players coming out to throw the commemorative first pitches showcased the family-like program that Knight has built in her time at the helm.
Clarkson University and Washington College were the other schools in attendance for the Sea Gull Classic. The two schools competed in the same tournament a year ago, combining for a 0-4 record against Salisbury.
Salisbury found themselves in a tough matchup against Clarkson in their first game in the new stadium, but proceeded to win 5-3 in dramatic fashion.
Clarkson had all of the momentum after freshman infielder Michele Winn blasted a home run over the left center wall that brought their lead to 3-1.
Clarkson’s ace pitcher Jamie Bridge brought her A-game for five-straight innings, leaving the Sea Gull batters confused and shaken up. It was not until the bottom of the sixth inning that Salisbury finally figured out the puzzle.
SU freshman Mikayla Meehan started off the inning with a double to left center. Annie Pietanza was walked for her at-bat and later advanced to second on a wild pitch. This set up senior centerfielder Caitlin Lake perfectly to deliver the shot the Sea Gulls needed, and Lake absolutely crushed Bridge’s pitch and placed it over the newly built outfield wall. Sophomore infielder Amelia Trotter wanted to join in the homerun party, blasting a pitch over the exact part of the wall Lake had just one batter before.
Back-to-back home runs gave the Sea Gulls a healthy 5-3 lead, which is all the pitching staff needed to shut Clarkson’s chances down.
SU starting pitcher Shannon Powell finished the day only giving up two earned runs in 5.2 innings of work. Powell sat five Clarkson batters down on strikes. Sophomore pitcher Brooke Mizelle, who was credited with the win, came in to relieve Powell in the top of the fifth, only giving up one hit in her appearance.
The second game of the doubleheader featured Salisbury taking on Washington College, led by former Sea Gull player Lacy Lister, who is a four-time All-American and one of the most prolific pitchers in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III history.
SU freshman catcher Emily Allen waits behind home plate for a pitch on opening day at the new Sea Gull Softball Stadium. Amy Wojtowicz photo
The top of the third inning saw the Sea Gulls put three runs on the board thanks to a triple to the gap in left center by Trotter with junior Annie Pietanza and Meehan scoring on the play. Trotter scored soon after on a wild pitch.
The bats were on fire for the Sea Gulls’ offense from start to finish. In the 11-1 finish, the 11 runs scored against Washington College was the third highest score Salisbury posted on season at the time.
Freshman catcher Emily Allen led the Sea Gulls at the plate with a double that almost went over the wall. Allen made sure to leave no doubt about her power when she sent a pitch out of the park with a three-run homer.
Junior pitcher Rachael Milligan was a dominant force in the circle, only giving up one hit, which came in the sixth inning. Six Washington College batters stepped up to the plate and Milligan sat them down with strikeouts.
The 2-0 start in their new home was a welcomed sight for those in attendance at the opening day of the new Sea Gull Softball Stadium.