CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Bucknell softball team earned its first win of the 2014 campaign on Sunday, taking a 2-0 victory over Bowling Green in an early morning contest at the Cleveland State Dome Tournament. The Bison rallied back to challenge Robert Morris in their second outing of the day, but couldn’t quite overcome the Colonials, dropping a 4-3 decision in a tight game. Bucknell improves to 1-3 in the very young season, while Bowling Green is 0-3 and Robert Morris is 3-0 after the second morning of action on Krenzler Field.
“The first game was really fun,” said head coach Bonnie Skrenta. “It was great to get a win under our belts, and Lara pitched really well, making the most of her first start. Dana provided solid relief in both games and Jacee had another great day at the plate. There are tangible areas for improvement that we can take away from this weekend, including our ability to prevent our opponents from having really big innings, but we are definitely moving in the right direction.”
Freshman Lara Bean earned her first career start against the Falcons, allowing just one hit and striking out four batters in five innings of action. The rookie combined with sophomore Dana Nielsen, who pitched three strikeouts and permitted one hit in two innings, to hold Bowling Green scoreless. Bean earned the first victory of her young career, while Neilsen tacked on a save in her first appearance in relief this season.
The first four innings of the game were relatively quiet, with both fielding units and pitching staffs keeping the focus on the defense. Each team registered a hit in the third however, and the Bison created a real scoring opportunity that fell just short.
Bucknell finally produced some tangible offense in the bottom of the fifth, sparked by freshman Jacklyn Tyburk’s single to center field that opened batting for the Bison. Senior Caryn Connors came in to pinch run and advanced to second on a sacrifice fly by junior Colie Escobar. With momentum building, Mallory Lyons singled to left field, driving Connors one base farther, and a fielders’ choice on senior Courtney Conover’s at-bat brought her home, giving the Bison a 1-0 lead that would stand at the end of the inning.
The Falcons advanced a runner to second in the top of the six, but two strikeouts from Nielsen wrapped up the first half of the inning with the Bison’s lead intact.
Another run for Bucknell at the bottom of the sixth and strong fielding in the bottom of the seventh secured the 2-0 win for the Bison. Junior Cydnee Sanders opened the sixth with a double to left field, prompting a pitching change for Bowling Green. The switch made no difference for Bucknell, as junior Kristen Zahn doubled to center field, driving Sanders in for the team’s second run of the day and guaranteeing a win for the Bison.
Power hitting was the story of the team’s second game, but Bucknell’s strength at the plate was not enough to overcome a three-run third inning from Robert Morris. The Bison took an early 1-0 lead, as the Colonials walked Almond at the top of the order, allowing her to score on a passed ball later on. Robert Morris knotted things up 1-1 in the bottom of the inning, scoring on a fly out to right field, and the tie would stand until the top of the third.
Bucknell surged out to another lead at the top of the inning when Almond knocked one out of the park. The rookie is already making a significant impact on the Bison offense, finishing her first weekend in orange and blue with three home runs. The Colonials answered however, snatching a 4-2 advantage with a monster third inning in which they recorded four hits and drove in three runs.
The scored remained unchanged through the next two stanzas, but a resilient Bison squad sliced the Colonials lead to one in the top of the sixth when Zahn recorded her second homer of the weekend. Nielsen came in to relieve classmate Amanda Fazio at the top of the sixth and didn’t allow a hit, but Buckell couldn’t come up with the tying run in the seventh, dropping a tight contest to Robert Morris.
Fazio earned her second start of the weekend against the Colonials, pitching five innings during which she allowed six hits and three earned runs while striking out three batters.
The Bison will return action next weekend for their second tournament of the season, traveling down to Farmville, Va. for the Longwood Spring Classic. Bucknell is set to open the competition with two games on Saturday, Feb. 15, beginning with a 10:30 a.m. contest against St. Joseph’s and concluding the day with a 2:30 p.m. matchup with Georgetown.