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Freshman pitcher lights up Stony Brook softball

There is something very encouraging about the performance of Stony Brook University softball’s new pitching star, Allison Cukrov. It is not only the fact that she has 13 wins, more than half of Stony Brook’s 22 overall. It is not only the fact that she has pitched 15 complete games. It is not only that she has thrown more than 100 innings. It is not only even that she has accumulated 119 strikeouts so far this season. It is the fact that she is a freshman, and there are three more years of this for Seawolves fans to look forward to.

“I really enjoy Stony Brook,” she said. “It’s different from California; it’s a different place. I really like it.”

Cukrov is originally from Irvine, Calif., which is a little south of Los Angeles along the Pacific coast. California has turned out previous memorable players in the baseball and softball world such as Yankee legend Joe DiMaggio from the 1930’s and 40’s and current Yankee star C.C. Sabathia.

Despite the strong schools on the west coast for softball, Cukrov decided on Stony Brook.

“I thought it was a good school where I could get an education and still play Division-I softball,” said Cukrov, who is an environmental science major. “The old pitching coach saw me in a tournament in Colorado and contacted me after that. Coach Bryant told me about her philosophy of putting academics first. That’s what kind of sold me.”

That’s in the past now, and the current season is the present, which Cukrov hopes will be a gift to Stony Brook softball fans who last saw their team win the conference championship in the 2008 season.

The Seawolves were the regular season champion the following season and host of the championship series in early May of 2009, but they lost the matchup against Boston University.

No player on the current team (22-9, 5-1) was a part of that last championship, but that does not stop Cukrov and her teammates from being hopeful that, this year, they will hold a trophy of their own.

“I’m really excited,” she said. “We’re pumped to get to the America East Championship. This is just the first step.”

Stony Brook’s first step before advancing into conference play was starting the season with a record of 14-6. The first four games of the season occurred at the Charlotte Classic in Charlotte, N.C. Cukrov started the opening game of the Classic, allowing five runs in 5.1 innings of work. She would take two loses for the weekend but would earn a save in the other two.

Despite some opening disappointments, Cukrov would prove to be a solid starter for weeks to come. She picked up her first win of the season against Siena College on March 2 at the George Washington Colonial Classic in Washington, D.C.

Later in the Classic, she would allow only one hit in a tight 1-0 win against Robert Morris University.

She would pick up another two wins in the LaQuinta Inn and Suites Spring Break Tournament in Fort Myers, Fla. but would drop one game to the host, Florida Gulf Coast University.

During the Tournament, Cukrov would pick up Stony Brook’s first win against a Pac-10/12 Conference opponent in the University of Utah.

She would then drop Stony Brook’s home opener on March 14 against Texas Tech University, 4-1. The Seawolves would drop both games that day, but that would be the end of any woes they had for some time.

After the lost doubleheader to Texas Tech, Stony Brook went on a seven-game winning streak and  won 10 of its past 12 games. During this stretch, Cukrov picked up another six wins. Three of those wins came against conference opponents.

One of those wins was Cukrov’s first collegiate no-hitter, which came against the College of Holy Cross on March 17. Stony Brook’s offense also put up the numbers that day to make her feel more secure about the game as a whole. The Seawolves took the game 7-0.

“I think it was a team effort,” she said. “No one person can win a game by themselves.”

Cukrov would throw another no-hitter later in the season, but this effort resulted in a perfect game against Manhattan College this past Thursday.

In the game, Cukrov struck out 12 batters, matching her total for her victory against the University of Utah.

But where did Stony Brook’s new ace come from?

“All of my dad’s side of the family played baseball or softball,” Cukrov said. “They taught me. I played first base, third base and shortstop. But then I started to focus on pitching when I got older. Now that’s what I primarily do.”

Apart from learning to play, and therefore appreciate, the perspective of position players in her time before Stony Brook, another fundamental lesson about playing a game such as softball the right way presented itself.

“I think learning to play with different types of people is something I really learned in high school,” she said, highlighting that the Seawolves wouldn’t be nearly as sound if the players were not there to support each other. “I feel like my whole team has my back when I’m on the mound. It makes everything seem so much easier.”

This band of sisters will have to stick together to navigate through tough waters in the conference schedule and whatever else may lie ahead, because the America East conference has proven to be as competitive as ever throughout the past couple of semesters.

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