After splitting a doubleheader yesterday with Canisius to start their MAAC season, the Marist softball team would have to get right back on the field, as they faced off against the Niagara Purple Eagles with the first game starting at 11 a.m.
In an eerily similar fashion to yesterday, it was a windy and sunny day, only today the Red Foxes won both games, beating Niagara easily 8-0 after five innings in game one and 7-3 in game two.
In the first game, the Red Foxes wasted no time getting the ball rolling as freshman center fielder Peyton Pusey jumped on the first pitch and drove it to deep center, and just missed clearing the fence for a homer, settling for a double.
Pusey would then steal third base, a common theme that would transpire over the course of both games as the Red Foxes had 11 steals between the two games. Head coach Joe Ausanio understood early on that Marist needed to take advantage of their opportunities.
“I’m just a big believer in putting as much pressure on a team as we can. I think right now just trying to give ourselves as many opportunities to get runners in scoring position was kind of the goal today,” said Ausanio.
After tacking on another run, sophomore designated player Maddie Pleasants stepped up to the plate with one runner on base and smashed a ball the opposite way over the right field wall for a two-run homer, increasing the Marist lead to 4-0.
They would score one more run in the inning thanks to a sacrifice bunt from freshman catcher Isabella Manory, which allowed junior third baseman Alyssa Grupp to score making it 5-0, capping off a five-run first inning.
Graduate student pitcher Calista Phippen was back on the mound hoping to bounce back from her rough start the day before against Canisius. In the second inning, she faced some trouble when she gave up back-to-back hits to start the inning, but was able to fight through by retiring three straight batters to get out of danger.
To give Phippen an even more comfortable lead, the Red Foxes decided to help their ace out and tack on more runs. In the bottom of the second, after redshirt freshman shortstop Haley Ahr drove Pusey in with a sacrifice fly to make it 6-0, Pleasants came up to bat again looking to do more damage.
This time she drove the ball to deep center, and thanks to a drop by Niagara junior center fielder Samantha Hare, senior second baseman Sam Freeland scored to make it 7-0 but Pleasants wasn’t done.
In the fifth inning, Pleasants was at bat again and hit a moonshot over the left field fence for her second home run of the game, as the first game would end after five innings with Marist winning 8-0. Pleasants drove in four of the eight Marist runs.
It was a bounce back for Phippen who went the whole game, giving up only two hits, and striking out ten Purple Eagle hitters. The key for Phippen was having a short memory and not letting yesterday’s outing deter her today.
“I’m just making sure I didn’t let yesterday come into today’s game and just looking at it as a fresh start with a short memory,” said Phippen.
The second game featured senior pitcher Kiley Myers who got the start once again,
Like the first game, the Red Foxes put together another five-run inning, only this time it came in the second inning. They would score runs by playing small ball with no home runs, but a lot of solid base running and taking advantage of mistakes from Niagara in the field.
A groundout by senior left fielder Hannah Brock allowed Grupp to score from third, and then an infield single by sophomore third baseman Ronnie Howard put another run on the board, making it 2-0.
The Red Foxes weren’t done yet, thanks to an RBI single from Pusey, an RBI triple from Freeland, and an error by Purple Eagles sophomore shortstop Lindsay Mayo, the score was again 5-0 Marist.
Despite the seemingly big lead, Niagara did not roll over in this game. In the third inning, the Purple Eagles started the creep back after senior third baseman Shayna Myshrall led off the inning with a single, then a throwing error by Ahr at first base allowed Niagara to put multiple runners on base.
This sequence then resulted in Niagara executing a double steal scoring their first run, and then back-to-back RBI doubles. The second one was a deep drive from freshman catcher Sophia Marrero, which was nearly caught by Brock who just missed it. By the end of the inning, the Red Foxes lead shrunk to just two, with the score now 5-3.
In the fourth inning, Pusey, who came so close to hitting a home run in the first inning, notched one this time as she sailed one over the wall for her second home run in the last three games, giving Marist a 6-3 lead.
Pusey, who finished with four hits on the day, feels like she is starting to get into a groove offensively.
“I feel like I’m just finally comfortable doing what I know I can do best, before I was doubting my abilities, doubting the 15 years of experience I have. I think now I’m just feeling really comfortable at the plate and trusting everyone else to also have my back, which is a nice cushion to have,” said Pusey.
For Pusey, being a freshman, starting in center field, and hitting lead-off can be a lot of pressure, but for her, having belief in herself is the key to her success.
“It’s really the pressure that I put on myself. Someone told me that everyone around me believes in me– the only person that doesn’t is me. And that’s what I was missing, I just needed to believe in myself. And it’s finally clicking and I think that’s why things are looking up right now,” said Pusey.
They would add one more run in the fifth, and after experiencing some trouble in the third inning, Myers was able to settle down for the rest of the game, retiring nine straight hitters to end the game as the Red Foxes completed the sweep beating Niagara 7-3, moving to 3-1 in MAAC play.
After getting swept by Niagara last season, Ausanio is very pleased that his team was able to return the favor this time around.
“I think last year, we thought we [were] just gonna go up there and beat Niagara and they took it to us and I was really pleased [with] the way the kids came out today, really got after it, and took great swings [with] great base running. Everything was really good today,” said Ausanio.
The Red Foxes will be back at it once again at home on Wednesday at 1 p.m. when they take on Cornell in a non-conference matchup.
Edited by Ricardo Martinez
Photo from Marist Athletics