By: Zach Gilleland
The Salisbury University softball team (18-14, 7-2 CAC), showcasing an offensive prowess unseen in the past few games, split the doubleheader against the Christopher Newport Captains (24-8, 9-1 CAC) 9-3 and 5-10 on Senior Day.
Pregame festivities saw the recognition of two Salisbury seniors, outfielders Summer Paglianete and Caitlin Lake. Taking the field for one of the last times in their SU career, both seniors received flowers from Sea Gull head coach Margie Knight and a standing ovation from fans in attendance.
“We were on the mound together, holding our flowers while we got our announcements, and we were talking that this was so bittersweet,” Paglianete said. “The years have gone by so quickly.”
Paglianete has been an integral part of the Salisbury bench. The speedy outfielder helps the team by pinch running, pinch hitting or collecting a spot start here or there.
Lake is one of the top performers on the Sea Gulls this season. Providing solid defense in center field, the senior is third on the team with a .396 average, three homeruns and 25 runs batted in (RBI).
Both education majors, Paglianete and Lake manage interning at elementary schools with the long practices and weekends of SU softball.
It was only fitting that the seniors experience Senior Day facing off against one of their rivals, the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC)-leading CNU Captains.
“It was really cool to play CNU on our Senior Day,” Lake said. “It gave us more incentive to fight and say, ‘we’re not going to sit down and we’re here.’”
Game one did not get off to the start the Sea Gulls hoped for, giving up three runs to the Captains in the first inning. The maroon and gold responded in the bottom half of the inning, with RBIs from Lake and freshman outfielder Mikayla Meehan to cut the deficit to one.
After five combined runs by both teams in the first, a pitching duel followed with neither starter giving up a run for the next three innings.
Salisbury junior starter Rachael Milligan dominated in the circle. After a rough start in the first inning, the Chestertown, Md. native shut out CNU the rest of the way, allowing only two hits after the first.
The Sea Gulls finally broke through in the bottom of the fifth, exploding for seven runs in the frame. A single by Lake put SU in business for junior second baseman Annie Pietanza. Pietanza smoked the 1-2 pitch into left to give Salisbury its first lead of the game.
The junior’s team-leading sixth homerun of the season gave the Sea Gulls the spark the team needed.
“Our intensity off the bench really helped me mentally,” Pietanza said. “I knew I had to step up and get the lead for us.”
The maroon and gold loaded the bases later in the inning and a single up the middle from sophomore third baseman Courtney Tate plated two. Two batters later, junior outfielder LeAnne Collins tripled home two more runs to give the Sea Gulls an 8-3 lead. Lake added another run to push the lead to six.
Milligan closed the door in the sixth and seventh, handing the Captains their first loss in conference play. The starter completed her fifth game of the season and lowered her earned run average (ERA) to 4.66.
“She was able to settle herself down,” coach Knight said. “She was able to self-reflect and get the job done.”
Salisbury could not replicate the success of game one in the second game of the doubleheader. Game two started exactly as game one had, with CNU scoring three in the first.
Errors continued to be a problem for SU throughout the game. Following an error-free performance in the first game, the Sea Gulls committed five errors in game two.
Salisbury starter Shannon Powell took to the circle in game two. Leading the team in ERA, Powell struggled, surrendering nine hits and seven runs in three innings of work.
Down 10-2 going into the bottom of the sixth, the maroon and gold did not back down. The Sea Gulls added runs in the final two innings and the team rallied to the end.
“We never rolled over and we never gave up,” coach Knight said. “I think that is really important for the maturity of this team. They are really gelling as a group and I am happy to see that on Senior Day.”
With the season winding down, Salisbury finishes up CAC-play with two doubleheaders in Pennsylvania, traveling to York College Friday and facing Penn St. Harrisburg on Saturday.
“We are on the incline and we are peaking later in the season,” Pietanza said.