The IUP softball team fell twice to California (PA) Wednesday at Podbielski Field. The first game wrapped up with a sour score of 6-1, while the second game saw more offensive production on the Crimson Hawks part, but they still lost 6-5.
Entering the day, IUP (20-19, 11-11) was ahead of the Vulcans by a ½ game in the PSAC West standings, but after Wednesday’s results, the Hawks have fallen 1.5 games behind California (19-18, 12-9).
Overall, IUP (20-19, 11-11) is now sixth in the PSAC West Division after being in second place a mere weeks ago. The Hawks trail Mercyhurst (23-17, 13-9) by 2.0 games for a playoff spot with just nine days left in the regular season.
The two losses also pushed IUP to a seven-game losing streak, a long fall from the 10-game win streak the Hawks were riding less than two weeks ago.
The Pitching for the Hawks started off strong in the opener, as Bella Bucy (junior, sport management) was on the bump for her 10th start of the season. Bucy had a solid first three innings, giving up just three hits and one run. But Unfortunately for her, the Vulcans found some momentum in the fourth and a switch needed to be made.
California opened the scoring with an RBI-double by Shayna Postler in the second before rattling off three runs in the top of the fourth. California led off the inning with back to back homers, to which Bucy was then replaced by Amanda Fischer (junior, molecular biology), who would pitch the next 2.0+ innings but would give up three runs herself.
IUP just could not string anything together offensively in the day cap. The Hawks totaled just three base runners for the game and struck out eight times – IUP has been struck out eight or more times in 10 games this season, three of them have come at the hands of the Vulcans.
The Hawks lone run was driven in by Allyssa Schmidt (sophomore, nursing) on single in the second inning, which at the time, tied the score at one.
IUP’s offense fell flat, and its defense was not that much better, allowing six runs to score. There were three homers during the opener, including the consecutive bombs in the fourth.
“We are getting some things to translate from practice to the game, but not all the pieces altogether,” said IUP coach Shawna Bellaud. “Hopefully, we can come to the field tomorrow and get everything for our big series with Edinboro and Mercyhurst.”
Caleigh Rister pitched a phenomenal game for the Vulcans, recording eight strikeouts over seven innings and allowing just two hits.
In the night cap things started to look a bit different offensively for the Hawks. Similarly to game one though, California got on the board in the top of the second to which IUP responded in the bottom half. Schmidt scored on an error following a single from Jess Cekada (freshman, math education).
In the bottom of the third, the Hawks scored once again, bringing the score to 2-1 after Jordan Sylvia (sophomore, nuclear medicine technology) hit a sacrifice-fly to bring in Madison Pikula (freshman, exercise science).
“They had time to reset and flush what happened,” Bellaud added. “They could Learn from the first game and make the necessary adjustments for game two.”
But IUP’s lead was short lived, as the Vulcans would answer with four runs in the top of the fourth. California knocked four hits and took a 5-2 advantage.
However, the Hawks would did not let that deter them and they responded with a three-run bottom half of the fourth, to once again tie the score, 5-5. IUP knocked two, run scoring singles, one by each of Sara Tailford (sophomore, special education) and Paige Truax (sophomore, criminology), followed by an RBI-triple from Pikula.
Everything remained the same on the field defensively for the Hawks over both games, which is out of the ordinary for IUP as normally there some positional changes on days were the Hawks have played doubleheaders.
“I just went with a different approach for today,” said Bellaud. “An approach that worked well despite the outcome, [California] was challenged to figure out a new game plan based on the changes or lack thereof.
Each team went scoreless through the fifth and sixth innings, leaving the score tied at five heading into the top of the seventh.
Rister of the Vulcans was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, allowing her a free base. She then advanced to second on sacrifice bunt to put her in scoring position with one out. The next California batter flew out, setting up Charity Henderson with a chance to give her team the lead with a runner on second and two outs.
Much to the Hawks dismay, Henderson knocked a single to center which scored Rister and gave the Vulcans a 6-5 advantage, and IUP was now down to its final three outs.
The Hawks would get a baserunner in the bottom of the seventh, but were unable to get the runner across, and dropped their seventh straight.
Pikula finished the game 1-for-3 with a pair of RBI’s and Cekada went 1-for-2 with an RBI of her own.
IUP will take on Edinboro on Friday in a home doubleheader. The Fighting Scots (11-21, 5-15) have the second-worst record in the PSAC.
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