Softball Sweeps Wagner, Kuzma is Hero

The softball team took both games of a double-header in West Long Branch on Saturday against Wagner to reach .500 on the season.

Kate Kuzma was the hero for the Hawks (13-13, 5-5), getting the game-winning hit in both games.

Lauren Sulick was the winning pitcher in each game, improving her record to 8-4 in 2012. She pitched a total of 11 innings, allowing three runs, all coming in the second inning of the second game.

“We have three pitchers that can do their job on any given day, and today Lauren just happened to be on and she stepped up and did a little bit more than what I would have liked,” said head coach Louie Berndt. “But in the situation right now we just need conference wins and she was on, they really weren’t hitting her. So I wanted to stay with her.”

The Blue and White won the first game 4-3.

The Seahawks jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first.

Monmouth answered right back. Kayla Weiser and Kaitie Schumacher hit back-to-back home runs to take a 3-2 lead.

Wagner tied it in the top of the second and there was no more scoring until the bottom of the seventh.

Monmouth faced a scare in the fifth inning. Sulick walked the first two batters and coach Berndt headed out to the mound.

“They try to take so much on their shoulders. You just have to try and get them to remember that it’s one pitch at a time, just stay within what you’re capable of doing,” said Berndt. “If you try to do too much then everything falls apart. So you just try to get them to relax and lighten up and just focus on their mechanics and what they need to do at that time.”

The next batter bunted, and third baseman Vanessa Cardoza forced out the lead runner at third. The next batter popped up to second base. With two outs and two runners on in a 3-3 game, Sulick ended the inning with a strike out.

MU came to bat in the bottom of the seventh with the score knotted at three.

Tish Derer led off the inning with a single. After a fielder’s choice, Weiser and Schumacher hit consecutive singles to load the bases with one out. Kuzma stepped in to pinch hit.

“I was a little nervous, but I knew I could do it, and everyone was giving me positive reinforcement. So I just tried to calm down,” said Kuzma.

She hit a slow roller that managed to get through the pitcher, and there was no play for the defense to make. Cardoza crossed home plate and the Hawks celebrated.

Sulick threw five innings in this game, allowing one hit and no runs. She struck out four and walked three.

Monmouth won the second game 7-4, to get back to .500 on the season.

The Seahawks jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second inning, but that is all they would manage in this one.

Three runs appeared to be enough, until the Hawks came to bat in the bottom of the fifth.

Christine Scherr started the inning off by reaching on an error and stealing second base. After a strikeout, Cardoza walked. Weiser hit into a fielder’s choice, then Schumacher drew a walk. With two outs and the bases loaded, Kuzma stepped up to the plate.

“The first pitch was a strike and I fouled it off and I knew it was right down the middle,” said Kuzma. “And then before that pitch I heard someone in the stands say, ‘No pressure, it’s ok, just try to clear the bases.’ I actually laughed. Then I took a breath, and it just looked like a beach ball.”

Kuzma crushed a grand slam to deep left field, putting the Hawks on top 4-3.

MU added a few insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth. Scherr picked up an RBI with a one-out triple. Two batters later, Cardoza belted a two-run homer.

The Hawks called upon Alissa Schoelkopf to pitch the top of the seventh.

“I brought Alissa in to change the pace and she throws so hard that I knew they weren’t going to touch her,” said Berndt. “The thing with her, she’s young, and she has to remember to just stick with the gameplan and not try to overthrow. But I would like to use them in that rotation with Alissa coming in and closing at times and keeping them off guard.”

Schoelkopf sat the batters down one-two-three, ending the game with a strike out.

Sulick pitched six innings, allowing three earned runs. She struck out five in the game, while walking five.

These two wins proved important for Monmouth, putting them in a tie for fifth in the Northeast Conference (NEC).

“The wins are huge. We talked about this the past couple of days. What we do in the middle of the week is only setting us up, instead of scrimmaging against ourselves, for these game that we play on the weekend, they are all that matters,” said Berndt. “Like I try to explain to the team, when we win there is a domino effect. So it just helps us. We can probably afford to lose one more, I don’t want to, so these two wins were huge. Especially after last weekend.”

The Seahawks (10-23, 3-7) find themselves in the basement of the NEC.

The Hawks host Villanova for a double-header on Thursday, with the first game starting at 3:00 pm.

They return to NEC play on Saturday when they travel to Farleigh Dickinson for a doubleheader.

PHOTO COURTESY of MU Photography