The Drexel University softball team kicked off its season with back-to-back losses Feb. 15 against The University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The Dragons saw early leads slip away in both losses.
The Dragons participated in the Charlotte Classic along with Youngstown State University, the United States Military Academy and Charlotte. Drexel lost both games of a doubleheader against the 49ers, 10-2 in the first game and 19-10 in the second. The two games of the doubleheader were the only games the Dragons would play because inclement weather forced the cancellation of the rest of the tournament.
Coming into the first game of the doubleheader, Charlotte had a record of 2-2 after already playing four games on the season.
Drexel sent junior Shelby Taylor to the mound in the first game, and the team provided run support at the top of the second inning. The Dragons took the lead when sophomore Maggy Fermo drew a bases-loaded walk to score sophomore Sylvia Llamas. With the bases still loaded, junior Comfort Ahonkhai was hit by a pitch to score another run. Both runs were unearned, and they would be the last Drexel would score. In the bottom of the second, Charlotte brought the game to within one run when Samantha Slade went from second base to score off a mishandled ball by Ellen Scott. The 49ers would tack on four more runs in the bottom of the third and one run each in the bottom of the fourth and fifth to widen their lead to 7-2. To add salt to the wound, Charlotte scored three more runs in the bottom of the sixth to finish off the Dragons by a score of 10-2. Taylor was pegged with the loss, throwing 5.1 innings and giving up 12 hits and seven earned runs. She also struck out three and walked two. The 49ers’ Katie Watkins had a great day, giving up just four hits and no earned runs.
Drexel sent freshman Tara Konopka for her first career start in the second game of the doubleheader. The 49ers got on the board first in the top of the first. The Dragons answered in the bottom of the first with three runs of their own, capitalized by back–to-back RBI singles by junior Maddison Timoteo and junior Karli Boyer to take a 3-1 lead. Charlotte tied the game in the top of the second with two more runs and scored four more in the top of the third. The 49ers tacked on three more in the top of the fifth to bring their lead to 10-3, breaking the 10-run mark for the second time that day. Drexel scored four more runs in the bottom of the fifth to get within just three runs, but Charlotte scored five more in the top of the sixth to widen the margin to 15-7. The Dragons made another push in the bottom of the sixth when they scored three more runs, two of which were batted in off a double to left-center by senior Jenn Reading. The 49ers shot down Drexel’s comeback with four runs of their own at the top of the seventh, sealing the 19-10 win. The Dragons had a whopping five errors in the game, two committed by Llamas.
“We would go to throw without seeing the ball into our glove or try and make a play before we let the play come to us,” head coach Miranda Ervin said when explaining the high number of errors. “I think it was both a product of nerves, high-scoring games and trying to do too much.”
Reading had a big game with a team-high three RBIs on two hits, while junior Jess O’Hara had a solid game with two runs scored, one hit, one RBI and one drawn walk. Konopka was pegged with the loss, pitching four innings and giving up 10 hits while striking out only one batter. Freshman Rose Portiolli made her first-ever appearance in relief, pitching three innings and giving up 12 hits and nine earned runs while striking out one batter.
The Dragons will travel to Greensboro, N.C., to participate in the Spartan Classic Feb. 24-25, hosted by The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Quinnipiac University and Marshall University will also participate in the tournament. Quinnipiac will be opening its season at the tournament. The Dragons will be tested at this tournament, playing four games in two days.
“I think it will test them mentally on how to recover more than physically,” Ervin said.