UNCG 4, Bucknell 2

In spite of a top-notch defensive performance and strong pitching from sophomore Dana Nielsen, the Bucknell softball team dropped a 4-2 decision to UNC Greensboro on Boseman Field in its final game of the UNCW Beach Bash.  The Bison, who finished the weekend with a 1-4 record, fell to 2-7 on the season with the loss, while the Spartans, who were 4-1 in the tournament, improved to 8-8 overall with the victory.

“It’s really hard to compete against 11 strikeouts,” commented head coach Bonnie Skrenta. “Our batters couldn’t figure out a way around their pitcher until the fifth inning, and by that time it was too late to generate enough offense to come away with a win. We did have some really nice clutch hitting, allowing us to capitalize on the opportunities that we had to score, and our defense was very strong. Dana pitched her second complete game of the weekend, and really navigated their offense well.”

Four different Bison registered a hit in the contest, led by junior Cydnee Sanders, who went 1-for-3 with a two RBI double in the top of the sixth inning. Nielsen, who now holds a 1-2 record, pitched the full game, allowing nine hits and four earned runs, while striking out five batters and walking two.

The Spartans hopped out to a lead in the bottom of the first, advancing a runner to second on a sacrifice bunt and then driving her home with a double to right center. They scored their second run of inning on a single up the middle, taking a 2-0 lead over the Bison.

The middle of the contest was defensive battle, as neither team was able to generate much offense until the sixth. Nielsen and the Bison defense worked 1-2-3 innings in the second and the third, and navigated their way out of a tricky fourth inning in which the Spartans loaded the bases with two outs, but Bucknell’s offense couldn’t find its way onto the board.

A quiet fifth inning was followed by an action-packed sixth, as the Bison tallied two runs in the top of the stanza to knot the score 2-2. Freshman Jacee Almond got on base with a single up the middle, and Skrenta sent sophomore Amanda Fazio in to pinch run. Senior Mallory Lyons followed that up with the second hit of the inning, advancing Fazio to third, and Sanders came through with the clutch hit for Bucknell, scoring both runners with a double to center field. The go-ahead run advanced to third on a wild pitch, but a ground out to second base ended the inning with a tied score.

UNCG answered Bucknell’s rally with a two-run inning of its own however, taking a 4-2 lead on a two RBI double to left field. The Bison were unable to fight back for a second time, falling to the Spartans in spite of a strong effort highlighted by an errorless performance by the defense.

While Bucknell’s defense was the star on Sunday morning, its offense also had many moments of brilliance over the course of the tournament. The Bison hit .303 as a team, led by Sanders’ .556 effort. The junior recorded 10 hits in 18 at-bats, scoring four runs and driving in two RBI. Junior Kristen Zahn and Almond were also stellar, hitting .438 and .400, respectively. Zahn was 7-for-16, with a double, a triple, two home runs, four runs and seven RBI, while Almond hit 6-for-15, also scoring four runs and batting in two RBI.  

Bucknell will return to action in one week with its first two contests in the Rebel Spring Games, a tournament that will test the Bison’s endurance with ten games in a six-day time span. The squad will open the competition with a 12 p.m. contest against Akron on Sunday, March 9, and will follow that up with a 2 p.m. match-up against Creighton.