By ZACH GILLELAND
With 33 consecutive wins dating back to the 2000 season, it is easy to say that the Salisbury University softball team has its number on former Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) foe Stevenson University.
The Sea Gulls (12-12, 1-1 CAC), behind a dominant pitching and offensive performance, extended their winning streak over the Mustangs (3-11, 0-4 MAC), sweeping Wednesday’s doubleheader 16-0 and 7-1.
The Salisbury bats came alive in the first game, and the maroon and gold run ruled Stevenson in five innings. The Sea Gulls scored multiple runs in each inning, and the team notched 13 hits.
“I thought we really handled [Stevenson’s] pitching well,” SU head coach Margie Knight said. “They gave us a lot of field to play with and we took advantage of it.”
Junior right fielder LeAnne Collins started things off for Salisbury, lining the first pitch to left field. A triple off the right-center wall from junior second baseman Annie Pietanza scored Collins and then a three-run shot off the bat of freshman catcher Emily Allen hit nearly halfway up the trees in left to give the Sea Gulls an early 4-0 cushion.
After tacking on four runs in the second, SU had its most productive inning in the third, scoring five. A solo homerun to dead center from sophomore third baseman Courtney Tate pushed the lead to eight. Then a throwing error from Mustang third baseman Kate Finnen scored three Sea Gulls.
SU senior center fielder Caitlin Lake finished off the inning with a run-batted-in (RBI) double to make it a 12-0 lead. Salisbury added four more runs in the fourth inning to cap off the second-most runs the team has scored all season.
Junior starter Rachael Milligan completed her third game of the season, throwing five shutout innings. Roughed up in her last start against Manhattanville College, Milligan bounced back, allowing just three hits and striking out six.
“I know I had been struggling personally,” Milligan said. “I knew I had to come out strong and consistent and help us get this win.”
Sophomore starter Shannon Powell provided the Sea Gulls with another strong pitching performance in the second game of the doubleheader. Powell, who leads the team with a 2.70 earned runs average (ERA), pitched through jams in the first two innings, limiting Stevenson to just one run. The righty dominated in the circle throughout the rest of the game, surrendering no runs and allowing two hits.
“It started off a little rocky,” Powell said. “Coach Knight said I needed to move the ball up and down more and it helped a lot.”
SU scored seven runs in the second game. An RBI single up the middle by freshman designated player Brooke Yerger started things off for the offense, plating junior first baseman Kristen Yanarella.
After an RBI single from Lake, a wind-carried double by Pietanza found grass in center field to score two more runs. The very next at-bat freshman left fielder Mikayla Meehan took a pitch up the middle, scoring Pietanza to finish the inning.
More tightly contested than the first game, Mustangs freshman starter Morghan Fulton held the Salisbury offense scoreless for four innings. SU added insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth, with Lake clearing the bases with a double to break the game open.
“It was really helpful from my teammates telling me what they were seeing at bat so I could make adjustments, too,” Lake said.
Lake finished the doubleheader 6-for-8 with four RBIs. The senior has hit the ball well recently with multi-hit performances in four of her last six games. But for her success, Lake credits her teammates.
“Them always being up and being there to help pump and pick me up helps,” Lake said. “It helps a lot to know I have their support all the time and that they will be there for me.”
With conference season looming, the Sea Gulls will try to defend their CAC crown once again. Salisbury hosts the Knights of Southern Virginia in a doubleheader on Saturday.
“Today’s sweep and especially our comeback win over Manhattanville, it gives us the confidence that we needed in ourselves and shows us we can be doing this,” Lake said. “This is how we should be playing and performing.”