Seniors shine in last softball homestand

    After splitting its third consecutive doubleheader, the UCSD softball team bounced back, taking a pair from conference rival Cal State Dominguez Hills in the Triton seniors’ last home games.

    Anna MacMurdo

    Going into the weekend, the Roadrunners of Cal State Bakersfield trailed the fourth-place Tritons by only one game in the hotly contested California Collegiate Athletic Association. After losing the first game of the last six doubleheaders, UCSD looked to open with a strong start behind senior pitcher Leea Harlan.

    Hopes quickly faded, however, when Bakersfield scored an unearned run in the top of the first inning and scraped out a run in the second to take a 2-0 lead. UCSD put runners on base against Roadrunner pitcher Erin Kelly, but failed to advance a runner past second base for five innings.

    Amy Mettee scored the Tritons’ only run of the night when she scored in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Harlan. Kelly finished with a five-hit complete game and Cal State Bakersfield added some insurance runs to win 6-1.

    In the second game, UCSD looked to salvage a split with senior pitcher Christi Martinelli on the mound.

    This time it was the Tritons who struck first, with Martinelli helping her own cause. Harlan opened the inning with a walk and went to third on a one-out double by Jamie Hurst. Martinelli then ripped a shot to right-center field that hit the base of the fence for a two-run double.

    She later cited a recent lack of time in the weight room as the reason the ball didn’t clear the fence.

    “”Honestly, I was so frustrated because I haven’t really been able to lift that much because my arm has been hurting really badly,”” Martinelli said. “”If I would have been able to lift for the last three weeks, there’s no question.””

    On the mound, there was no lack of strength and Martinelli and the Triton defense shut down the Roadrunners for five innings. In the sixth, Cal State Bakersfield mounted a three-run rally capped by Candace Pillado’s two-out, two-run home run to narrow the gap to one. The Roadrunners put the tying and go-ahead runs on base with two outs in the top of the seventh before UCSD senior second baseman Samantha Hayes snared a sinking pop-up to end the game.

    “”We played more relaxed in the second game,”” said Triton head coach Patti Gerckens. “”Whoever can play under pressure is going to go to postseason, and quite honestly that’s the way it should be.””

    Needing desperately to stop the splits and sweep a doubleheader, UCSD found an unwelcome opponent Saturday for Senior Day.

    “”I looked at the schedule and I said, ‘Man, we have to play our last game against [Cal State] Dominguez Hills,’ not because they’re good, but just because I don’t like playing them. They’re scrappy and cruddy — they always split,”” Harlan said.

    The Toros’ scrappy style turned out to be a nonfactor when Harlan started Senior Day with style, throwing a dominant one-hit shutout while striking out five.

    UCSD put together all the offense it needed in the third inning when, with one out, Mettee got her second of three hits in the game with a double. Kim Aggabao advanced her to third, and senior Kristina Anderson slapped a single down the right-field line to score Mettee. Not to be outdone, Harlan followed with a single, and Hayes hit a ball through the outfield fence for a ground-rule double, scoring Anderson.

    After the game closed with the Tritons on top 2-0, UCSD celebrated its opening-game win and the accomplishments of its seniors, but realized there was more work to be done.

    Harlan’s was a tough act to follow, but Martinelli was up to the challenge when the Tritons opened with six runs in the first two innings and cruised to a 7-1 victory in the second leg of the doubleheader.

    On a day that appeared to be scripted for the seniors’ farewell to Triton Softball Stadium, the heroines should be no surprise. Hayes drove in a run in the first inning and then stayed in a rundown long enough for a second run to score, while making it safely to second base herself. Martinelli came to the plate, and — needing no help from a strength-training program — launched a home run to center field.

    The UCSD seniors all agreed that they couldn’t have gone out any better way.

    “”I’m just really proud of everybody, especially the seniors,”” Anderson said. “”I know how far the four of us have come as a class.””

    Hayes agreed with Anderson.

    “”We played hard and I think the important thing is that we played for each other this time,”” Hayes said. “”All of us did so great, and we strung out hits together, which is awesome.””

    Leaving home behind, where the Tritons have gone 16-8 this season, UCSD hits the road where it has played close to .500 ball all year. The Tritons will play crucial games in the Cal State Bakersfield Mountain Dew Classic next weekend before closing their season with a pair of conference doubleheaders May 3 to May 4.

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