The softball team started off the season by picking up wins in four out of five games on the road behind shut-down pitching and a powerful lineup.
The Hawks started their road trip at the Norfolk State University Tournament and won all three of their matchups. The margin of victory in each game for MU was no less than four runs. The opening game saw the Hawks take a 10-0 victory over host Norfolk State. Senior Lauren Sulick pitched a five-inning no-hitter, tallying six strikeouts and two walks.
“It set the tone for the season for me and the other pitchers,” Sulick said. “We know what we can do after putting all the work in with Coach. It’s just about putting it into action.”
The Hawks got off to a fast start offensively, bringing in two in the first inning. The bats then were relatively quiet as they managed only one more run until a seven run fifth-inning, which included a three-run homerun by senior Kate Kuzma.
Senior Jordan Barnett pitched a gem in the second game of the day, a 5-1 victory over Delaware State. Barnett allowed only four hits on the day. MU took an early 2-0 lead, but a fourth inning homerun from DSU’s Kelsey Doherty brought the Hornets within one run. It took a sixth-inning three run homerun from sophomore Vanessa Cardoza to put the Hawks securely in the lead.
In the final game of the tournament and third game of the day, MU beat Norfolk State for the second time 11-0. Kuzma hit a grand slam in the first-inning of the rematch as the Hawks posted six to start the game and they never looked back. Freshman Cerissa Rivera rounded out the remarkable weekend for the pitching staff with a complete game shutout. Rivera only allowed one hit in her first collegiate start.
Head Coach Louie Berndt said, “The first outing you start with a no-hitter, followed by a four-hitter, and then a one-hitter by the freshman. That’s pretty outstanding for not being outside much in the offseason.”
The Hawks then traveled to Rock Hill, South Carolina for the Winthrop University Tournament. On the first day of action they split a double header, beating Furman University 4-2 and losing to host Winthrop 8-7 in extra innings.
Against Furman, Barnett pitched a complete game holding the Paladins scoreless through six innings and totaling four strikeouts. The Paladins scored two runs off wild pitches in the seventh inning. Kuzma led the way offensively, driving in all four of the runs.
Berndt said, “Being on the road early definitely builds your team chemistry. When you put people in a bus for as long as we have, there is a lot of team bonding.”
In the second game, reigning NEC player of the year, junior Kaitie Schumacher, hit a solo shot in the first inning to give MU an early lead. The Hawks added three more in the second extending the lead to 4-0. Sulick started the game for Hawks, but after a three run third inning by the Eagles, MU brought in Rivera for relief. The Hawks then added six more before the fifth inning, including a solo homerun from sophomore Kayleena Flores, pushing the lead to 7-3. Rivera pitched 4.2 innings in relief before being forced out of the game after giving up four solo homeruns in the seventh.
Sulick then reentered the game in relief to close out the inning, forcing extras. The Hawks failed to score in the top half of the eighth. In the bottom half of the inning, Eagles’ McKenzie Corn hit a walk-off single, ending the four game win streak.
Despite the extra-inning loss, the Hawks have outscored opponents 37- 11 on the season.
“Each weekend you want to go out there and do your best and then evaluate yourself after the weekend. Figure out what you need to work on whether it’s defense, offense, pitching, or runs,” said Berndt. “At the end of the season our ultimate goal is to win the NEC championship and these weekends strengthen us to reach our goal.”
The team travels to Virginia this week for the George Mason University Tournament.
PHOTO COURTESY of MU Photography