Explosive Offense, Strong Pitching Leads Softball to Doubleheader Sweep of Samford
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Having mustered a pair of runs in each of its last four games, UNCG’s offense came alive Friday as the Spartans plated 18 runs in a doubleheader sweep of Samford by respective 9-1 and 9-3 scores.
“I thought we did a nice job in all three fazes today,” said head coach Janelle Breneman. “We were strong in the circle and played solid defense. We’ve really focused on our offense lately and it really showed up like we know we’re capable of. One through nine we are very strong and we are taking good hacks on some good pitches we are going to do some damage.”
Marisa Sholtes (Albany, N.Y./South Colonie Central) was clearly seeing the ball well at the dish, going 5-for-6 with two RBIs and a run scored.
“Marisa looked confident in there,” continued Breneman. “She came up in some big situations to extend the inning and delivered. That’s especially big in that four hole with the way Jas is playing and Lex and Gabi getting on too. One through four really looked like the confident hitters that I know they are and today they came through.”
Alicia Bazonski (Sheffield, Mass./Mount Everett) threw a dandy to earn her 15th win of the year. The junior threw all five innings, allowing a single run on six hits, striking out three.
“Baz did another stellar job today,” stated Breneman. “She really wasn’t getting that call at the knees today, which was a tough situation for her. She didn’t let it get to her though. She managed to stay on the corners which was effective. She did a really nice job of using her off speed to keep the batters off balance. The bats responded for her and I think that helped her to relax and throw her game.”
The Spartans jumped all over Bulldog starting pitcher Grey Adams right away as Jasmine Palmer (Lake Biltmore, N.C./Florida State) led off the bottom of the first with a solo blast over the left field fence. UNCG used more power in the second to go up 2-0 on Rachael McClaskey’s (Pine Hill, N.J./Overbrook) solo dinger down the right field line.
UNCG kept things rolling in the third scoring another run to extend the lead to three runs. Alexis Overdiep (Apex, N.C./Apex) led things off with a single to right and advanced to second on a Gabrielle Cubbage (Felton, Del./Lake Forest) sacrifice bunt. A couple of batters later, Sidney Grkman (Salisbury, N.C./Jesse Carson) dropped a single into center to plate the speedy right fielder.
After the Bulldogs pulled a run closer in the fifth, the Spartans really went to work in the bottom half. Cubbage led off the frame with a towering blast to left, ending Adams’ outing. New pitcher Taylor DeCelles didn’t have much better luck, allowing a Sholtes infield single and a Grkman walk.
From there, some shaky defensive play really proved costly to Samford. Emily Acquaviva (New Hartford, N.Y./Stony Brook) laid down a sacrifice bunt right in front of home plate. Bulldog third baseman Lexie Higgins struggled to field the ball and made things worse by sailing the throw over Whitney Hinton’s head at first. Abby Sweeney’s throw from right field to the plate also sailed high and when all was said and done Acquaviva was standing on third, two Spartan runs had scored and Samford had committed three errors on the play.
Jordan Gontram (Wake Forest, N.C./Heritage) brought Acquaviva home with a sacrifice bunt to put UNCG up 7-1. Rebecca Kale (Hudson, N.C./South Caldwell) reached on an error at short, McClaskey was walked and Palmer reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases for pinch hitter Kayleigh Willis (Virginia Beach, Va./Frank W. Cox). Willis ended the game on the first pitch of the at-bat, smacking a two-RBI single up the middle to give UNCG the run-rule victory.
In Game Two, Starting pitcher Kylie Bouplon (Winston-Salem, N.C./Forsyth Country Day) received a no decision after allowing three runs on three hits in 2.1 innings of work. Stephanie Bryden (Orlando Fla./East River) earned her first win of the year in relief, tossing 4.2 innings, holding Samford to one hit and no runs.
Bryden’s return to the pitching staff could prove to be a big moment in the season for UNCG.
“We’ve been a little short handed in the circle,” Breneman concluded. “Three games in a weekend is tough relying on two pitchers for a weekend series. Having Bryden back and throwing well is nice. We can throw three or four pitchers at them tomorrow. It’s great that the load doesn’t have to be so heavy on one or two. This is the strongest staff that we’ve had in the circle.”
UNCG again got off to an early lead with a run in the first. Palmer led off with a sharply hit single up the middle, advancing into scoring position on an Overdiep sacrifice bunt. Following a Cubbage fly out, Sholtes delivered a two-out double to right-center, bringing Palmer home.
Unfortunatley, the lead wouldn’t last too long as the Bulldogs grabbed their first lead of the day on a Kelsey Royalty three-run home run past the left field fence.
The Spartans cut the deficit in half in the fifth. Gontram roped a one-out single to right and was replaced at first base by pinch-runner Danielle Bieberle (Winter Haven, Fla./Auburndale). Kale followed up with a double to the wall in left-center and McClaskey brought Bieberle in with a sacrifice fly to right. Palmer nearly tied the game but her hot shot down the third base line was snagged by Higgins.
UNCG entered the bottom of the sixth down a run and by the time the frame ended the Spartans held a commanding 9-3 lead. Overdiep reached via a two-base throwing error at short to start the inning and Cubbage layed down a perfectly placed bunt for a single. Sholtes kept her hot day going with an RBI single to right, bringing Bulldog coach Mandy Burford out for a pitching change.
DeCelles, though, fared no better than Jessica Stone. Grkman walked on four pitches to load the bases and Acquaviva cleared them with a towering grand slam to left. A few batters later, McClaskey cranked a double off the center field fence to score the sixth and seventh runs of the frame.
With all the momentum in the world behind her, Bryden came out for the seventh and quickly produced three outs to close out the sweep for UNCG.