The Drexel University softball team had a week filled with mixed results. The Dragons went 3-4 (and now sit at 5-10 overall) March 1-5.
The Dragons traveled to Conway, S.C., March 1 to compete in the Coastal Carolina Invitational. The team’s offensive woes were the biggest story of the weekend. They went 1-4, including three shutout losses. In the final game of the tournament, however, the Dragons’ offense did show signs of life.
The Dragons began the invitational with a matchup March 1 against Wichita State University. Karli Boyer had a two-hit game, but Drexel could not push a run across the plate and was shut out, falling 4-0 to the Shockers. Although the offense was able to get five hits off of Wichita State’s Sloan Anderson, they were held hitless in key scoring situations. Freshman Tara Konopka gave the Dragons a strong pitching performance, allowing only two earned runs over five innings, but got minimal support from the offense in the loss.
Following the loss, the Dragons had a quick turnaround to face Coastal Carolina University. Once again, the offense was the story for the Dragons, as they could not crack the Chanticleers’ pitching and were held off the scoreboard for the second straight game. The Drexel offense mustered only three hits in the game. The Dragons’ Shelby Taylor held Coastal Carolina in check through the first four innings but got into trouble in the fifth and loaded the bases. The Chanticleers’ Morgan Noad took advantage of the situation, taking Taylor’s delivery over the right-field fence for a grand slam. Coastal Carolina would go on to take the win 8-0.
Drexel returned to the field Saturday to take on Western Carolina University. The Dragons scored their first run of the tournament and took an early lead in the game. Jess O’Hara beat out an infield single to the hole between shortstop and third base. Ellen Scott followed with an RBI double to the gap in left-center field that rolled to the wall. Western Carolina made a comeback in the fourth inning as Taylor lost her command. She walked three batters in the inning, including the tying run. The Catamounts took the lead in the fifth with two runs to give them a 3-1 lead. The Dragons were able to get within one run in the seventh inning off an RBI single by Comfort Ahonkhai but could not make the comeback, eventually falling 3-2.
In the second game of the day, Drexel’s offense was almost nonexistent against The University at Albany, State University of New York. The Dragons once again could not plate a run, managing only three singles and a walk. No Dragon runner could make it past first base in the game, and seven were struck out. The Great Danes’ offense had no problem scoring runs, as they plated five in the second, one in the fourth and three unearned in the sixth to put away the game.
The Dragons returned to the diamond March 3 to play their final game of the Coastal Carolina Invitational against Western Carolina. Drexel’s bats woke up for the first time on the weekend, as they finished the tournament with a 6-5 victory. In the win, Konopka earned her first collegiate victory in relief. The Dragon offense took advantage of its chances during the game, capitalizing on Catamount miscues to score five unearned runs. Outfielder Maggie Fermo scored twice, and Ahonkhai scored the game-winner to break a 5-5 tie in the eighth inning. Hanna Parrish added two hits and a run for the Dragons.
The Dragons’ performance at the Coastal Carolina Invitational featured an offense that could not make the correct adjustments when it counted. The team did not seem to click until the final game of the tournament.
“I think the team’s offensive struggles have come due to a lack of adjustments early in the game,” head coach Miranda Ervin said about her team’s performance. “We definitely can do a better job of making adjustments. When they are made, we hit the ball. I think this team has a lot of opportunities for offensive greatness, but it takes adjusting pitch to pitch and at bat to at bat.”
Following their stint in South Carolina, the team headed back to Philadelphia. The Dragons were set to play their first home games of the season March 5 in a doubleheader against Rider University. The team carried momentum from its previous win and was able to sweep the doubleheader in impressive fashion, winning both games by a final score of 8-0.
The first game of the day was all Dragons, with Taylor pitching a complete-game shutout and the offense manufacturing eight runs. Taylor allowed only one hit in her performance, a bunt single in the third inning. Parrish, Sylvia Llamas, Ahonkhai and Taylor each added two hits for the Dragons in the game. O’Hara had the biggest hit of the game, roping a double to left-center field that plated three runs.
The second game of the doubleheader had the same result for the Dragons. Once again the Drexel starting pitcher threw a complete-game shutout. Konopka allowed only four hits and struck out two in her six innings of work. The offense backed Konopka nicely, scoring eight runs for the second straight game. Parrish had her second two-hit game of the day and added two RBIs. O’Hara, Scott and Jill Popek each added two-hit days for the Dragons as well.
The Dragons’ first home games of the season came with the success they have been searching for all along. The offense finally seemed to wake up from its slump and scored 16 runs on the day. While the bats were impressive, it was the starting pitchers that shined brightest for Drexel with back-to-back complete-game shutouts.
“I think it was a huge confidence booster for both the team and the pitchers,” Ervin said about her starting pitchers’ performances against Rider. “The pitchers did a great job getting out of jams and finding a way to make pitches work. I think the team rallied behind the pitchers, and it gave everyone confidence going into this weekend.”
The Dragons will return to the field March 8 when they travel to Buies Creek, N.C., for the Hampton Inn Camel Stampede Tournament. Drexel will have matchups against Morehead State University, Norfolk State University, Northern Kentucky University and Campbell University over the weekend. The Dragons will look to find success on the road as they did at home.
“I think the key to success is making adjustments and playing hard every game,” Ervin said. “If we do that, then we will compete with all teams and give ourselves a chance to be successful.”