Last weekend the Spartan Softball team took on the Western Carolina in a three-game series. This series kicked off the beginning of Southern Conference play for UNCG. Coming into play against the Catamounts, the Spartans went 17-13 in non-conference play.
Saturday’s doubleheader began with a Spartans 6-0 victory. Rachael McClaskey and Jasmine Palmer led the way with two runs off of one hit each. Palmer also had four RBIs. Sidney Grkman and Emily Acquaviva each batted in one run each. The top of the third inning was the busiest for the Spartans, as they scored four runs. The shutout was thrown by our own Alicia Bazonski, who pitched the entire game. She gave up only four hits and zero runs batted in. She struck out seven WCU players as well.
Shortly after a 30 minute break, the team went back out onto the field and played in their second game of the double-header at 3:30 p.m. Like the first game, the Blue and Gold got the victory over the Catamounts, with a score of 10-2. UNCG started the game with a bang in the first inning, with a triple being batted in by Gabrielle Cubbage. Cubbage, Alexis Overdiep and Palmer all scored on that play. Coach Janelle Breneman expressed her pleasure with the start when she said, “I thought we really did a good job early in the ballgame attacking and coming out to put three big runs on the board. Whenever you can score early, it obviously lets the pitcher relax and make some pitches. I thought we did a nice job of putting our pitchers in good situations to really do some damage on defense.”
In the second inning, three more runs were scored by Palmer, Overdiep and Cubbage. The Spartans continued their dominant play in the third inning as well, with runs being scored by Emily Acquaviva, Danielle Bieberle and Rebecca Kale. In the fifth inning of the game, Western put up two runs off of two hits, but left three on base. The Spartan defense showed off their defensive capabilities in this inning and Coach was impressed when she said, “Danielle Bieberle stole that home run against the fence. That was an amazing catch and an amazing play. We practice them all the time but then in a game to make that ESPN-worthy play is exciting. Gabrielle Cubbage had a hard line drive at her too, which she caught. The defense is solid, which allows our pitchers to relax and know that they have the defense behind them.”
By the end of the bottom of the fifth inning, the game was over. Besides the two runs given up in the fifth inning, pitcher Kylie Bouplon, threw a solid game. She pitched all five innings, giving up three hits and two runs, with two strikeouts to go along with those. Coach did not seem worried about rankings before SoCon play when she said, “I really don’t look at those numbers. We just have to make sure we’re taking care of what we need to take care of and that’s playing aggressive softball. I don’t look at preseason rankings and such. We really just try to take each game as seriously as the next one. I thought we did an awesome job today of jumping out and getting two wins and the momentum in the series. We are looking to finish off tomorrow strong.”
Before this series the Spartans had been in a bit of a tailspin, as they had lost the last three of four games. When asked about it Breneman said that “We are really focused each and every practice to come out and clean some things up that we need to work on. And then we drill things that we need to feel better about. I think these two wins really proved and showed WCU how potent our offense is all the way through. We have a great pitching staff, so I’m really looking forward to that momentum and strength going into the conference.”
The third and final game in the series was held at 1:00pm on the UNCG Softball Field. The Spartans came out with a victory in the final game, sweeping Western 3-0 in the series with a 7-3 victory. In the top of the first inning, Jasmine Palmer scored the only run off of a fly ball to left field that was hit by Cubbage. The second inning for the Spartans was the most exciting, as they had four runs off of three hits. Acquaviva homered to left center and got McClaskey home. Both Gontram and Kale had one home run each also. In the third inning, McClaskey homered to center field and both her and Grkman scored.
Alicia Bazonski led the Spartans with her good pitching, as she only allowed seven hits and three runs scored in six innings of play. She also struck out four Catamount players on the day. In the seventh inning Kylie Bouplon came in as the reliever and played one inning in which she gave up one hit and had one strikeout.
With the first SoCon series in the books for the Spartans, they are looking forward to the rest of their schedule matchups, both conference and nonconference. Their next few matchups will be nonconference, in-state opponents. They match up against North Carolina this Wednesday, March 29, in Chapel Hill.