The non-conference double header between Marist and Seton Hall on Tuesday, April 18 featured two teams that have been playing their best ball as of late. The Pirates have a stunning record of 21-3 since March 15 and the Red Foxes are 8-2 in their last ten games played.
Game one of the double header started with sophomore pitcher Maddie Pleasants getting Seton Hall to go down one, two, three in the top half of the first. Pleasants’ counterpart in game one would be Seton Hall’s junior pitcher Sydney Babik.
Babik came into this game with the highest earned run average on the Pirates pitching staff with a 4.09 ERA.
She would allow a run right away in the bottom half of the first. The run was scored in part due to senior utility Sam Freeland wreaking havoc on the bases. Freeland reached first on a fielding error by the Pirates freshman shortstop Andrea Perez and then stole both second and third to put the Red Foxes in scoring position early. Marist head coach Joe Ausanio said that Freeland’s baserunning was “unbelievable.”
“[Freeland’s] so aggressive and very instinctual. She probably has one of the higher softball IQ’s. She just knows where to go. She knows the situation and very rarely is she not in the game mentally. With her speed, it just makes her a terror on the basepaths,” said Ausanio.
Pleasants would proceed to help herself by converting on the early scoring opportunity as she hit a scorching line drive single to the right center field wall allowing Freeland to score easily and putting Marist on top early with a 1-0 lead.
In the second inning, Seton Hall’s offense responded with five consecutive singles to start the inning and scored three runs making the score 3-1 Seton Hall.
The pressure was on Pleasants as there were still runners in scoring position and no outs after the three runs scored. She would proceed to record one out before allowing another base hit to senior leadoff Ashly Colonnetta, who squeezed a ground ball between short and third, scoring another run extending the Pirates’ lead to 4-1.
Pleasants struck out the next batter in sophomore right fielder Taylor Hill, but one more run would cross for the Pirates on a passed ball before freshman center fielder Peyton Pusey made a beautiful throw to home plate for the final out of the inning and kept the score at 5-1 through two innings.
The offenses for both teams were in full throttle early. Despite the five spot put up by Seton Hall, the Red Foxes started the bottom half of the second inning with a double by senior outfield Shea Walsh followed by a single from freshman first baseman Reese Wilson.
Babik would keep Marist off the board though, partially thanks to Walsh being caught stealing at third. Walsh was originally called safe but after a conference between the base and home plate umpires, the call was overturned.
However, the next time the Red Foxes came up to bat, Babik was once again in a tight spot as the bases were loaded by two singles from Pleasants and junior third baseman Alyssa Grupp and a walk from Walsh– Pleasants, Grupp and Walsh reached base safely six of eleven times in the game. The two hits and walk all came with two outs in the inning and one run crossed the plate after a single to third base was hit by Wilson, making the score 5-2 going into the fourth inning.
The top of the fourth started as the second inning did for Pleasants as the first three Pirates batters reached base, resulting in Pleasants being pulled from the game for senior pitcher Kiley Myers– bases loaded and no outs. Pleasants ended her day in the circle with three strikeouts and six earned runs in three innings pitched.
The first batter Myers faced in relief for Pleasants was Hill, who singled to right field to score a run. But Myers stopped the bleeding there by getting out the next three batters she faced, including a strikeout of sophomore Olivia Gilbert, who came into today’s matchup with the second highest batting average among qualified Pirates.
As Seton Hall tacked on another run, their lead increased to 6-2 going into the bottom of the fourth. The bottom half of the inning was Babik’s first three up, three down of the game and did all the work herself by fielding two ground balls and striking out Marist’s senior outfielder Hannah Brock.
Myers would match the stellar work of Babik by getting through the top of the fifth inning unharmed with two strikeouts and a catch made by redshirt freshman shortstop Haley Ahr, ranging to her right to catch a line drive.
That was followed by another one, two, three inning for Babik retiring Ahr, Pleasants, and Grupp. Meyers went back into the circle and recorded two more strikeouts, increasing her total to five strikeouts through three innings as the score remained 6-2 with the Pirates leading game one going into the bottom of the sixth.
The bottom of the sixth featured a diving catch by Seton Hall graduate student Marissa Pla as she charged in on a line drive hit by Walsh to take away a base hit, and Marist was kept off the scoreboard by Babik for a third consecutive inning.
Meanwhile, it seemed like the sun would come out during the otherwise cloudy day each time Meyers entered the circle, symbolic of how she shined throughout her relief appearance keeping the Red Fox deficit at four entering the bottom of the seventh inning.
Myers finished her day in the circle with six strikeouts in four innings pitched and no earned runs allowed. The strikeout total was the third time Meyers had reached at least six strikeouts in all her appearances this season.
“(She) is one of our go-to’s… she always comes in and pounds the zone,” said Ausanio on Myers’ performance.
The Red Foxes showed fight in the bottom of the seventh inning as Grupp brought in a run on a two-out double, but the five-run second inning proved too much as Babik finished seven strong innings throwing 127 pitches while allowing just one earned run.
Behind Babik’s seventh complete game of the season, Seton Hall won their 30th game of the campaign and took game one of the double header with a final score of 6-3.
In game two, the starting pitching matchup consisted of four seasons of experience between the two starters. Marist’s graduate student pitcher Calista Phippen faced off against Seton Hall’s freshman Kyra Kreuscher. Both pitchers sit around a 2.00 ERA, Phippen with a 1.98 ERA and with a 2.06 ERA.
Phippen started the game strong by quickly retiring the first three batters of the game, which included striking out Seton Hall senior Shelby Smith and a diving play made by Marist’s Freeland on a ground ball to second.
In the bottom half of the first, the Red Foxes had runners on second and third with two outs after both Walsh and Pusey reached safely and were moved over by Pleasants.
The next batter was Grupp who put up a 10 pitch at bat against Kreuscher before finally breaking through and going the opposite way to score both Walsh and Pusey on a single to left field.
“It was a great at-bat. (Grupp) has had her struggles lately… we talked about it yesterday, ‘just shorten up your swing a little bit,’ and she had a really good day at the plate so I’m proud of her,” said Ausanio.
The base knock gave Marist an early 2-0 lead through one inning of play as Phippen entered back into the circle for her second inning of work. She and the defense behind her continued to work in unison. Freeland made another dazzling play on a line drive to her at second base and sophomore right fielder Lauren Morrell made a routine catch on a fly ball.
Kreuscher would settle down and counter Phippen with a strong inning of her own keeping the score at 2-0 Marist through two innings.
The top of the third inning would be the first time that Seton Hall got to Phippen in any capacity as Pirates freshman catcher Regan Rand and Hill both hit singles up the middle. Junior infielder Lela Allen hit a ball into the right field corner that resulted in a RBI double.
The potential scoring rally was quickly put to rest after Pleasants caught a ball in foul territory and threw out a runner trying to tag from third to home, keeping the score at just 2-1 with the Red Foxes maintaining the lead.
In the bottom half of the third, Kreuscher was faced with bases loaded and no outs after Freeland, Walsh, and Pusey all reached safely. This brought Pleasants to the plate in a big spot, and in a 2-2 count she hit a bases clearing double into the left centerfield gap. The double made the score 5-1 Marist with the Red Foxes still threatening.
The batter after Pleasants was Grupp, who brought in Pleasants on a sacrifice fly to right field. This made the score 6-1 with Marist in the lead, and it also increased Grupp’s RBI total to three in game two.
“I thought our offense was awesome, especially coming back from last game only scoring two runs,” Phippen said.
She explained that the balls were not finding holes in game one but did so in game two and the captain made sure to accredit her teammates Pleasants and Morrell for “having a really good day.”
Phippen responded to the offensive support by going back into the circle and working efficiently. Through four innings she only threw 49 pitches.
The bottom of the fourth included lots of Red Fox offense and a milestone for Morrell. She came up with a runner on and smacked a no-doubt home run to left field. As she rounded the bases, she enthusiastically pumped her fist rounding second and let out a roar. It was Morrell’s first of her collegiate career.
“It’s been a journey because, you know, last year I was hurt and this year I’ve been struggling a little bit. So to be able to have that breakthrough… I’m super excited about it,” said Morrell.
“(Morell) is a great teammate… she’s had some struggles here but you know what, she’s got a lot of power and when she hits the ball it goes a long way. I was really happy for her just seeing the expression on her face and how happy she was running the bases,” said Ausanio.
The home run made the score 8-1 and a combination of solid Marist hitting and Seton Hall’s defensive collapse allowed the Red Foxes to add three more runs, making it a five-run fourth inning and increasing the Marist lead to a dominant 11-1.
Ausanio was impressed by the timely hitting and suggested that the reason his team fell short in game one was due to the lack of it.
“We had runners on against (Babik), we just didn’t get the base hits when we needed them and that’s why I was really proud of the effort in the second game” he said.
Despite the Pirates adding two runs in the top of the fifth inning, the Red Foxes recorded three outs and due to the run rule, the game ended in five innings with a Marist victory of 11-3 and an overall split of the double header. The victory also marked Phippen’s 50th win of her collegiate career, calling it “exciting, but feeling about the same.
“[Phippen] has probably been the greatest pitcher in my tenure here. When I saw her in high school, I knew I had to have her… I knew she’d have a great career,” said Ausanio.
The day was highlighted by accomplishments for Marist softball, but it was also a solid showing against a now 30-win Seton Hall squad.
Marist will look to continue to put together high quality efforts as they return to MAAC play at Rider, who’s record is 11-22 and 2-4 in conference play. The Red Foxes will travel to New Jersey to face the Broncs on April 22 for another two-game set.
Edited by Ricardo Martinez
Photo from Marist Athletics