An air of excitement hovered over the softball field Sunday as the women’s softball team warmed up, both figuratively and literally. The intensity of the crowd (though they were small in number) was matched only by the unseasonably warm weather as the October sun shined brightly overhead.
The crowd, which consisted of people from both the visiting Queens College (UNCG’s opponents) and UNCG, awaited a thrilling game and as game time approached. The atmosphere grew ever tenser and the teams delivered the expected excitement in spades as they battled it out on Sunday through a game that was nail-bitingly close through its first half.
With the start of the game came cheers and calls by both teams as they attempted to both pump up their teammates and cause their opponents to make a mistake. The Spartans, who had entered the game with a 2-4 record in the Autumn, had ample reason to be nervous, even this early in the season, when most games (like this one) as scrimmages. However, either they didn’t feel it or they hid it very well, as they played like they had nothing to be afraid of, not letting the other team (or the atmosphere).
The excitement of the game started out early, with Alicia Bazonski (#13) striking out two batters in the top of the first inning (she would strike out three more by the time she was subbed out in the fifth inning for total of six strikeouts). The other out was a pop fly caught by senior infielder Hagan Kiser. The bottom of the first saw Kiser shift gears and do a rather impressive bunt and almost reach first base (this was one of less than a handful of bunts this game – the other came at the bottom of the sixth and also resulted in an out).
With the second inning came the first runs gained by either team: a home run hit by Marisa Sholtes. From then until the fifth inning was a stalemate, marked by close saves and near misses on the part of the Spartans. One such moment was a great line drive by shortstop Gabrielle Cubbage in the fourth inning, which followed an impressive play that got out a Queen College runner trying to steal third base.
Fly balls seemed to be the motif of Sunday’s game, with at least seven Spartans hitting fly balls over the course of the game and even more being hit by their opponents, each time causing the entire stadium to hold their breaths as the pitching teams scrambled to get the ball and stop the runner.
With the fifth inning came several changes to the game. First, Freshman Kylie Bouplon replaced Alicia Bazonski as pitcher, going on to strike-out two batters from Queens’ College. The second – and easily more important of the two – change was the fact that this inning had the most drastic upswing in runs from the Spartans. The team added five more runs this inning. This started with a walk from senior Kendall McKinney then a single from redshirt junior Sidney Grkman, and a walk for Sholtes (during which McKinney stole home). After that, there came a whirl of walks, singles, and RBI’s (runs batted in), leading to a total of five points gained that inning. Easily the most exciting moment in this whirlwind was the sacrifice made by Cubbage to make sure that Grkman could get a run batted in.
After that inning no team scored (though both teams got close several times), and two more pitchers were subbed in for the Spartans – Stephanie Bryden and Danielle Bieberle. Both of them would go on to strike out at least one batter, with Bouplon returning in the 7th inning to strike out all three of the batters.
The game ended with the Spartans up 6-0 over the visiting Queens, and will go on to face Elon University on October 12 at 7:00 p.m.