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Stony Brook softball wins three of five in Libby Matson Tournament

Starting pitcher Ashton Melaas winds up to throw a pitch in practice on Jan. 24. Melaas pitched well in the Stony Brook softball team’s trip to California this past weekend. BRITTNEY DIETZ/THE STATESMAN

After the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) Round Robin was canceled, the Stony Brook softball team used its extra week of preparation to have a successful weekend.

The Seawolves (4-6) took a trip to California this past weekend to participate in the Libby Matson Tournament at Bill Simoni Field: the home of the Pacific Tigers.

Stony Brook opened its five-game weekend with a 12-0 loss in five innings to the Nevada Wolf Pack (12-4) on Friday before bouncing back with a 7-6 win over Pacific (2-12) later that day. On Saturday night, the Seawolves got their revenge on Nevada with a 4-1 win before completing the doubleheader sweep with a 2-1 win over the Tigers. On Sunday, the team lost its getaway game 5-3 to the Creighton Bluejays (8-5).

Stony Brook struggled in all aspects against the Wolf Pack on Friday. After scoring a run in the bottom of the first inning, Nevada catcher Aaliyah Jenkins opened the floodgates with a leadoff home run in the second. Starting pitcher Gabrielle Maday issued a double to designated player Charli Hawkins and a walk to shortstop Maile Olsen before a groundout advanced them into scoring position. Center fielder Chelie Senini bounced into a fielder’s choice to collect a run batted in (RBI) before second baseman Bridgette Gilliano followed with a single to drive in another.

The Wolf Pack continued the onslaught with a sacrifice fly by first baseman Taryn Jenkins and a two-run single by right fielder Gabby Herrera. Now leading 7-0, Aaliyah Jenkins stepped to the plate and drove a two-run homer over the right-field wall for her second bomb of the inning. 

After seeing eight runs cross the plate to fall into a 9-0 hole, head coach Megan Bryant inserted starting pitcher Ashton Melaas from the bullpen.

Melaas escaped further trouble in the bottom of the second inning, but the blowout carried into the third. Melaas allowed an RBI double to Senini, who later came around to score on a wild pitch. In the next frame, Olsen doubled home a run to tack on the finishing touches.

In the top of the fifth inning, Nevada starting pitcher Tyra Clary retired the side in order to invoke the mercy rule and lock down a complete game, two-hit shutout. Clary struck out three hitters and walked none.

The Seawolves had a much better evening. Though they went hitless through the first two innings, left fielder Catherine Anne Kupinski blasted a three-run home run to left-center field to make it 3-0 in the top of the third. Pacific right fielder Olivia Silvestre got one back with a sacrifice fly in the home half of the frame, but Stony Brook answered even harder in the top of the fourth.

After center fielder Alicia Orosco and shortstop Kyra McFarland opened the inning with a pair of singles, right fielder Alyssa Costello lined an opposite-field double RBI double. With two runners still on, catcher Corinne Badger demolished a no-doubt, three-run homer to left-center field to extend the Seawolves’ lead to 7-1.

Starting pitcher Mia Haynes allowed just a run on two hits through her first five innings. However, a sixth-inning solo shot by shortstop Rian Dirmeyer sparked a near game-tying rally for the Tigers. In the bottom of the seventh, third baseman Kyla Eck singled home a run before first baseman Delaney Scully drove her in with a sacrifice fly to center. With two outs and a runner on second, Dirmeyer hit her second homer of the day to bring her team within a run.

Haynes was promptly pulled for Melaas, who got Pacific catcher Reagan Hamilton to foul out to Badger to seal the game. However, Melaas was not credited with a save.

Bryant praised her team’s resilience after bouncing back from a nightmarish start to the doubleheader.

“It was a rough start to our day against a very good Nevada team, but we came out stronger in game two and competed better,” Bryant said in a postgame interview with Stony Brook Athletics. “We look forward to tomorrow and the opportunity to continue that improvement.”

The Seawolves displayed that same resiliency again in Saturday afternoon’s opener against the Wolf Pack.

In the top of the second inning, Herrera smacked a double to center field off Melaas and advanced to third base on a sacrifice bunt, setting up Hawkins for a two-out RBI single. After that, Melaas locked in, allowing just four hits over the final five innings while keeping Nevada off the scoreboard.

Melaas’ effort opened the door for a late rally by Stony Brook. After getting just one hit through five innings against starting pitcher Taryn Irimata, the Seawolves broke out with four runs in the bottom of the sixth to take over.

Designated player Julianna Sanzone led off with an infield single and then moved into scoring position on a pinch-hit ground out by second baseman Sofia Chambers. Irimata was replaced by relief pitcher Blake Craft, who immediately loaded the bases by allowing back-to-back singles to Orosco and McFarland.

Costello cashed in with a two-RBI single to right-center field to take the lead. After McFarland advanced to third on a flyout and Costello stole second, Kupinski grounded one to Gilliano, who booted it. Gilliano’s error scored both McFarland and Costello to put it out of reach.

Melaas dominated the Wolf Pack to the tune of one run on six hits across seven innings to earn her first win of the season.

Later in the afternoon, Stony Brook took down the Tigers again in another low-scoring game. The game began with an uneventful first two innings before Orosco turned on an inside pitch and ripped it over the wall for her first collegiate home run.

The scoring went back on hold until the top of the fifth inning when Sanzone led off with a double down the left-field line. Pacific head coach Brian Kolze pulled starting pitcher Vanessa Strong in favor of relief pitcher Avery Croxall, who retired her first two hitters. With two outs and Sanzone on third, McFarland punched a ball through the middle to double the lead.

Both Maday and Croxall exchanged scoreless innings until the bottom of the seventh when the Tigers finally scored. A one-out double by Scully and a wild pitch by Maday put a runner on third for Pacific center fielder Allie Capello, who grounded out to drive in the run. After that, Maday got second baseman Jordan Hayes to fly out to Orosco, securing the victory.

Maday pitched a complete game, surrendering just a run on four hits without striking out or walking a batter. She earned her second win of the year to even up her record.

Bryant loved what she saw on Saturday.

“Our pitching and defense were outstanding,” Bryant said. “We competed at the plate with several players clutching up.”

The Seawolves’ game with Creighton on Sunday morning was not nearly as successful as the prior three. In the bottom of the third inning, Haynes surrendered a two-RBI single up the middle to right fielder Emma Rosonke to start the scoring. Bryant pulled Haynes for Maday with just one out and two runners on, and she worked out of the jam by retiring her first two batters.

In the top of the fourth inning, catcher Emily Reinstein pulled an RBI single down the left-field line with two outs to halve the deficit. However, in the next half-inning, the Bluejays got the run right back with an RBI single from catcher Sydney Potter after a leadoff double by center fielder Ella Dalton.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, Melaas relieved Maday and was welcomed by Creighton first baseman Alyssa Gappa, who crushed a solo shot to left field to make it 4-1. After a single by second baseman Madeline Vejvoda, Dalton ripped another double to make it 5-1.

Stony Brook inched closer in the top of the sixth inning after Sanzone followed Costello’s leadoff double with a two-run home run to left-center field. Despite the Seawolves’ best efforts, Creighton starting pitcher Natalia Puchino retired the next five hitters she faced to hand them the loss. Puchino hurled a complete game, allowing just three runs (two earned) on five hits while striking out five and walking one.

Despite the tough finish to the tournament, Bryant took solace in the three wins her team earned.

“It was a good tournament for us,” Bryant said. “We like the strides we made this weekend and have a lot of great takeaways as we move forward in our season.”

In the circle, it was a mixed bag for the Seawolves. Melaas allowed 12 hits, two walks and five earned runs while striking out four batters across 11 ⅔ innings. Maday allowed 14 hits, two walks and 11 earned runs across 10 ⅓ innings of work. Most of Maday’s numbers are inflated by the loss to Nevada, as she surrendered just two runs on six hits over her final 8 ⅔ innings.

Offensively, Kupinski and Costello put together solid weekends for Stony Brook. Kupinski went 4-for-13 with a double, a homer, five RBIs, two runs scored and a walk. Costello was a force to be reckoned with, as she went 5-for-12 with two doubles, three RBIs, four runs scored, a walk and two hit-by-pitches. Sanzone also had a good tournament, as she went 3-for-9 at the plate with a double, a home run, three RBIs, three runs scored and a walk.

The Seawolves will now look forward to a pair of doubleheaders next weekend. On Saturday, they will play a pair of games against the George Mason Patriots in Virginia. The Patriots are 4-7 this year after sweeping a doubleheader on Saturday against UMBC and Providence. First pitch is set for 3 p.m. in game one, while the nightcap is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m.

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