To earn a berth in the Atlantic Ten Conference tournament, the softball team faced two must-win situations. The Owls had to beat Dayton twice on Friday before ending the season with a doubleheader victory over George Washington on Sunday. They had no such luck.
After losing the second game to the Flyers and losing their chance at an A-10 berth, the Owls finished their season Sunday with a split against the Colonials.
Heading into Sunday’s game, the Owls said they were determined to end the season on a high note. They salvaged one game of each twin bill, but it was not enough to advance.
The Owls committed three errors in the first game Sunday and lost, 7-3. George Washington scored early in the first and second innings, setting the pace for the game. The Owls, who scored all three of their runs in the third inning, were unable to even tie the game other than at 0-0.
The Owls clinched the second game, 3-1, largely behind the offensive contribution of senior catcher Laura Gutscher. Gutscher hit a home run in the fifth inning, giving the Owls a 1-0 lead. She and senior infielder Aida Esquer added two more runs in the seventh inning and freshman Jen Nacianceno struck out seven batters and allowed only two hits to give the Owls a victory in their final game of the season.
Senior infielder Melissa McCartney, Gutscher, and Esquer were honored before the start of the first game Sunday. McCartney suffered a season-ending injury Friday, though she received a ceremonial start Sunday and was removed after the first pitch.
“It’s sad and it’s heartbreaking knowing you’re not going to play anymore,” Gutscher said. “I’m going to miss the people the most and, of course, the game.”
Coach Rocci Pignoli said he was going to miss the three seniors.
“[Gutscher and McCartney] have just given their heart and soul to this program. We’re all really proud of them and what they’ve done,” Pignoli said. “Aida’s been here for four years and there’s nobody who has more heart and guts than that kid. She’s really done a marvelous job.”
A-10 DREAMS GONE
The Owls, who entered the season eager to defend their 2004 A-10 title, said they were disappointed in not making the A-10 Championships. The Owls finished 4-12 in the conference and 16-29 overall.
Pignoli said the team would be able to bounce back next year.
“Some tough things happened this season, but we were young and inexperienced,” Pignoli said. “With some experience under our belt, we hope to kick it back up a notch next season. We have some great returning players and some nice recruits.”
Pignoli said next year he expects a much more successful season. The Owls have 13 players returning, including the bulk of a strong pitching staff.
Melissa DiPento can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org