Marist softball quickly faced a deficit against Cornell on Wednesday, April 5, but they showed resilience and scored 11 unanswered runs for a final score of 11-4 in favor of Marist.
The non-conference game was a tale of opposites as the Red Foxes came into this game having won five of their last six games while the Big Red had lost five of their last six games.
Cornell had freshman pitcher Kylie Denny in the circle, who was coming off her roughest outing of the season against Yale where she gave up seven earned runs in only three innings.
However, Cornell gave Denny run support before she had even thrown a pitch by scoring four runs off Marist sophomore pitcher Maddie Pleasants in the top of the first inning. Three of the four runs came off the bat of freshman Sydney Stapf who hit a three-run homer, which just made it over the left field fence.
“4-0 after the top is always tough, but I don’t think anyone had doubt. There was no scare after the first inning and we were still confident,” said team captain and senior Shea Walsh.
The confidence took some time to turn into results as Denny responded to her team’s run support by making quick work of Marist the first two innings.
Meanwhile, Pleasants’ day in the circle was over after two innings and relieved by senior Megan Haff. Because this was a non-conference game, Marist head coach Joe Ausanio shrugged off the short outing from Pleasants.
“The plan all along was to play everyone and get everyone out on the field,” said Ausanio.
Haff began the top of the third struggling to find the strike zone. She walked the first three batters and was quickly pulled from the game for graduate student pitcher Calista Phippen, who came into the game with bases loaded and only one out.
Despite being put in a difficult situation, Phippen kept Cornell off the scoreboard in the third inning keeping the score at 4-0 ,which would prove to be crucial for Marist’s comeback.
Phippen would continue to strand runners in scoring position in the fourth inning after Cornell’s Stapf reached third base with two outs, but third baseman Alyssa Grupp ended it by making a throw on the run to first after charging in to field a slow ground ball.
The bottom of the fourth inning would be the first time Denny faced trouble in the game in part due to the unison between the Marist bats and Phippen’s pitching performance.
Acknowledging the impact she can have on the team, Phippen said that her teammates saw her confidence in the circle and brought her confidence to their at-bats.
The bottom of the inning began with a double by shortstop Haley Ahr, followed by a walk by Pleasants, who reached base twice, along with two more base hits from Grupp and right fielder Shea Walsh.
A double play turned by Cornell’s middle infield on a ball hit by first baseman Reese Wilson would limit the damage to two runs, but nonetheless, Marist was on the board and the score was 4-2 going into the fifth inning.
“[We were] swinging at bad pitches and helping [Denny], but then when they started swinging at good pitches, balls began to get squared up,” said Ausanio when talking about the struggles early on.
Pippen would continue to keep Cornell at bay recording two strikeouts in the top of the fifth, which brought her strikeout total to a game-high of three in the second and third innings she pitched in relief.
The Marist offense would continue to put together quality at-bats and put pressure on the Cornell defense, which resulted in four errors made in the bottom of the fifth inning. Haley Ahr took advantage of the defensive errors when she hit a double to right center field which brought across her two RBI’s on the day.
Because of Ahr’s double, Denny was pulled from the game for sophomore Maxine McCraw. McCraw faced Marist’s starting pitcher in Pleasants and got her to hit a routine fly ball to center field.
However, Marist and Pleasants would be the beneficiary of the third error made in the inning by Cornell center fielder Julie Hilcken as Pleasants’ fly ball bounced out of her glove, which allowed Pleasants to reach second and brought Ahr in to score. This gave Marist their first lead of the game.
Pleasants was moved over on a well placed sacrifice bunt and would later cross home plate as part of her three runs scored on the day and gave Marist a 6-4 lead going into the sixth inning.
The top half of the sixth would see senior Kiley Meyers enter the circle and do it all herself. Meyers struck out the first two batters and fielded a comebacker for the third out in the top of the inning.
When the third out was made, Marist huddled as a team and chanted “break it open” prior to coming up to the plate. Pleasants would come up to the plate and help that rally cry reign true by hitting a deep fly ball off the fence in right center field for an RBI double.
Later in the inning, Marist would load the bases and give them a chance to score with two outs. Walsh was at the plate and drew a bases loaded walk, which was followed by sophomore Maggie Gore being hit by a pitch allowing Marist to tack on two more runs in the inning.
Walsh, who has not been satisfied with her recent offensive performances, said she felt her at-bats were “a lot better today.”
“I tried to stay confident, go in there with a good approach, swing at good pitches and stay disciplined,” said Walsh.
This mindset allowed Walsh to finish the day 2-3 with 2 RBI’s.
The inning would continue with a hard-hit two RBI single up the middle by freshman Isabella Manory which increased the total runs scored to five in the bottom half of the sixth.
The game broke open just like the team had hoped as Marist now led 11-4.
“When you execute, good things happen,” said Ausanio while speaking on the nine-run offensive explosion in the fifth and sixth innings.
Meyers would come back out in the seventh inning to close things up for the Red Foxes but not before she faced a bases loaded jam. She would get out of the jam unscathed thanks to a nice shoestring catch made by left fielder Kaitlyn Husic keeping Cornell from scoring and ending the game with a final score of 11-4.
“Kiley is phenomenal. She is absolutely amazing, hits her spots every time and I have just as much confidence in her as myself, if not more and I know the team does as well,” said Phippen.
The combined effort of all three Marist relief pitchers resulted in five innings pitched and zero runs allowed.
The come-from-behind victory brings Marist’s record to 14-19, and they will now prepare for an important MAAC conference doubleheader against a 16-9 Saint Peter’s squad on Saturday, April 8.
Edited by Ricardo Martinez
Photo from Marist Athletics