WILMINGTON, N.C. – The Bucknell softball team kicked off its second tournament of the season on Friday, playing two contests on Boseman Field as part of the UNCW Beach Bash. Bucknell opened the competition with a 12-3 win over Brown University in six innings, and despite rallying back from an early 4-0 deficit, dropped a 9-6 decision to UNC Greensboro in its second game of the day. The Bison improved to 2-4 overall with the split result, while the Bears dropped to 0-1 and the Spartans lifted their overall mark to 5-7.
“I am really happy with the win over Brown,” said head coach Bonnie Skrenta. “The offensive production was incredible, and we did a great job of making sure that the ball was in play when we had runners on base. We had a few key hit-and-runs early on that sparked aggressive hitting throughout the contest, and Dana did an excellent job of settling in and handling their batters with skill.”
Offense was the story of the contest against the Bears, as the Bison combined for 13 hits and 12 runs in their first outdoor contest of the season. Junior Kristen Zahn had a stellar outing at the plate, going 3-for-4 with two runs and three RBI, while senior Courtney Conover was also exceptional, hitting 3-for-4 with a run and two RBI. Junior Cydnee Sanders and rookie Jacee Almond also accounted for a significant amount of the offensive production, each going 2-for-3 in the contest.
Brown jumped out to an early 1-0 lead over Bucknell on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the first, but the defense buckled down after that, allowing a four-run third inning to catapult the Bison over the Bears. Conover started the rally with a single to right field, and senior Mallory Lyons brought her home with a single to left field, knotting the score 1-1. Zahn was the difference maker however, as she hit a three-run home run to give the Bison a 4-3 advantage.
Bucknell padded its lead in the following inning when Almond scored on an error by Brown’s pitcher, but the Bears continued to hang around, tallying two runs in the bottom of the fourth to make it a 5-3 game.
The rest of the contest was all Bucknell however, as the Bison scored two runs in the fifth and five in the sixth, while keeping the Bears scoreless for the duration of play. Sophomore Mariah Midyette scored in the fifth on a Conover double, and Almond followed that up with a sacrifice fly to left field, bringing home senior Caryn Connors and giving Bucknell a 7-3 lead going into the bottom of the fifth.
Three quick outs brought the Bison up to bat again, and singles by sophomore Cheyanna Young, Conover and Almond, combined with fielding errors by the Bears, brought in five runs in the top of the sixth. Sophomore Cindy Cherness faced three batters in the bottom of the inning, striking out two to seal Bucknell’s 12-3 win.
Sophomore Dana Nielsen earned the win in her second pitching start of the season, allowing five hits and three earned runs before Cherness came in to relieve her.
The second contest of the day presented a new challenge for the Bison, as four-run first inning by the Spartans put them at early disadvantage. The team banded together to fight its way back however, led by Sanders and Young, who each hit 3-for-4, accounting for more than half of Bucknell’s 10 hits. Freshman Lara Bean also played a huge role, regrouping after the first inning to hold UNCG scoreless until the bottom of the fifth.
“We knew that Lara could handle their batters,” added Skrenta. “She bounced back really well, and I’m pleased with how she performed. Dana also deserves credit in the second game, because she doesn’t have much experience as a reliever and she embraced the different mindset that the role requires to give us a strong finish. We didn’t capitalize on some early offensive opportunities and that hurt us, but we shifted our mental approach to stay in the game until the very end.”
The Bison got one run back in the top of the third when Zahn singled up the middle to drive in sophomore Amanda Fazio. Another run in the fourth inning, scored when Young stole home, narrowed UNCG’s lead to two and kept Bucknell rolling.
A tough fifth inning for the Bison defense allowed the Spartans to regain a 9-2 lead, but the squad never gave up, and Midyette drove in two runs in the sixth to keep her team in the battle. Nielsen remained composed in the bottom of the sixth, holding UNCG without a run, and both Zahn and Young scored in the top of the seventh, but it wasn’t quite enough to lift the Bison over the Spartans.
Bean pitched 4.1 innings for Bucknell, allowing seven hits and five earned runs, and Cherness faced four batters in the fifth. Nielsen came in for the last 1.2 innings, striking out two batters and allowing just one hit during her time in the circle.
The Bison will return to action tomorrow morning for two more contests in the UNCW Beach Bash, taking on the Bears for a second time at 11:30 a.m., and wrapping up the day against the host school at 4:30 p.m. Live results for both contests will be available.