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Badger’s walk-off salvages series against UNCW

Catcher Corinne Badger pulls a pitch against UNCW on Saturday, April 1. Badger hit a walk-off home run in game three of the series against the Seahawks. ABRAR NAVEL/THE STATESMAN

Although a walk-off homer from catcher Corinne Badger ended the weekend with a bang, the Stony Brook softball team still lost the series.

This past weekend, the Seawolves (12-16, 3-8 CAA) lost two out of three games to the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) Seahawks at University Field. Stony Brook dropped the opening two games on Friday and Saturday 10-4 and 5-2 respectively. Luckily for the Seawolves, they were able to avoid the sweep with a 3-2 walk-off win on Sunday.

In game one, UNCW cashed in on a slew of Stony Brook miscues in the top of the first inning. The Seawolves’ defense allowed UNCW second baseman Tayler Vitola to touch them all on a ball that never left the infield.

With a runner on second, Vitola laid down a bunt, but shortstop Naiah Ackerman bobbled it to allow her to reach first base. After the play was seemingly over, Vitola took off for second base because nobody covered the bag. During this craze, UNCW right fielder Elizabeth Winstead dashed for home plate and Ackerman tried to throw her out. The throw was not in time, allowing Winstead to score. While the throw went home, Vitola took third base as well and rounded the bag.

Badger saw her take a wide turn and tried to throw behind her, but her throw skipped off third baseman Brook Dye’s glove and into left field, allowing Vitola to score as well.

Stony Brook never recovered from Vitola’s little-league home run. After retiring the first two hitters with ease in the top of the third inning, starting pitcher Ashton Melaas fell into trouble when UNCW put together a two-out rally.

After a single and a walk, UNCW designated player Jada Santiago singled home Vitola to make it 3-0. The rally concluded with back-to-back doubles from shortstop Mary Sobataka and center fielder Morgan Britt, extending UNCW’s lead to 6-0.

After a two-run single by Vitola made 8-0 UNCW in the top of the fourth inning, Stony Brook began to chip away at the lead over the next two and a half innings. A solo shot from Badger and a pair of RBI doubles from Dye and right fielder Catherine Anne Kupinski cut the lead in half, making it 8-4 by the end of the sixth inning.

However, in the top of the seventh inning, the Seahawks shut the door on the Seawolves’ comeback in the same fashion that they blew the game open in the third. Consecutive RBI doubles down the right field line by Sobataka and Britt made it 10-4 UNCW. A perfect bottom of the seventh inning by UNCW starting pitcher Kara Hammock secured a complete game and a win for her and her team.

Despite the loss, head coach Megan Bryant was impressed with the team’s effort to stay in the game.

“Quitting is not really in our DNA,” Bryant said in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “I think in this league we have to be after it from the first pitch.”

Game two was much more competitive, as it was tied 1-1 through the first four innings. The Seahawks took over the game in the top of the fifth inning when Melaas fielded a bunt and threw it up the first base line. UNCW first baseman Logan Bjorson scored on the play to break the tie. After an RBI single by Vitola, a passed ball and an RBI double by starting pitcher Janel Gamache, UNCW extended its lead to 5-1.

In its last turn at-bat, Stony Brook brought the tying run to the plate after back-to-back singles by left fielder Alyssa Costello and Dye. With a big opportunity for a comeback, Ackerman grounded into a double play. The twin-killer cleared the bases while Costello came in to score.

Stony Brook did not pull off a two-out rally, losing game two to clinch the series loss.

The Seawolves were not presented with many scoring opportunities throughout the day, but they squandered the ones they had. Bryant felt the team was not locked in during those situations.

“We needed to hit better,” Bryant said. “I think we needed more of an external focus when we had runners in scoring position.”

In a recurring theme of the series, the first run of game three came following an error. This time, Stony Brook was the beneficiary. After Ackerman singled with one out in the bottom of the second inning, an errant throw by Bjorson allowed her to advance to third base. Second baseman Sofia Chambers capitalized on the blunder with a sacrifice fly to give the Seawolves a 1-0 lead.

After starting pitcher Mia Haynes silenced the UNCW bats for the first four innings, the Seahawks broke through in the fifth. Bjorson got things going with an infield single and advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt. UNCW left fielder Arial Pearce tied the game with an RBI single up the middle.

After UNCW right fielder Carson Fleming led off the top of the seventh inning with a single, first baseman Ashley Jacobson bobbled Bjorson’s bunt attempt and allowed her to reach base. Winstead then lined a base hit up the middle to break the tie and give UNCW a 2-1 lead heading into the final frame.

Down to their final three outs, center fielder Alicia Orosco led off the bottom of the seventh inning by reaching on an error. Left fielder Shauna Nuss bunted Orosco over to second base, setting the stage for Badger to be the hero. After taking the first pitch for a ball, Badger crushed the 1-0 pitch over the right-center field wall for a walk-off two-run homer.

After being frustrated with her prior at-bats, Badger credited her level-headed approach for allowing her to deliver in the moment.

“Earlier in the game my at-bats weren’t great,” Badger said. “I wasn’t seeing [the ball] as well as I should have, so I was just going into it knowing it was going to be a big moment. Just staying small, staying composed and seeing a good pitch.”

Stony Brook improved in each game this series. Bryant had high praise for her team and the growth they showed against UNCW.

“Anytime you win its big and anytime you win a CAA game its big,” Bryant said. “To be able to get continuously better within the series from games one two and three really shows growth for our team.”

Badger had a productive series at the plate, going 4-for-10 with two homers and three RBIs. She now ranks second in the CAA with eight home runs.

In the circle, Haynes posted several solid outings. After allowing four runs in game one, Haynes allowed just one run on seven hits in 7 ⅓ innings over the next two games. She struck out five hitters and walked only one. Overall, she tossed 11 ⅓ innings in the series, giving her the fourth-most innings pitched in the conference.

The Seawolves will be back in action on Tuesday when they play a nonconference doubleheader at the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights. The Knights are 15-15 on the season and just took two out of three games from Merrimack. The first pitch for game one is scheduled for 2 p.m.

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