Heading into the final stretch of the season, first-year softball head coach Miranda Ervin and her young Drexel team may have found the formula for winning. The Dragons’ bats came alive, allowing them to pick up their first Colonial Athletic Association victories of the season April 27, sweeping a doubleheader against the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
Drexel won the first game 4-1, and freshman Tara Konopka gutted out a tough performance for the Dragons, going six innings and giving up only one unearned run. Drexel took a 1-0 lead with the help of Hanna Parrish leading off with a single to start the game. Then with a steal and a groundout, Parrish found herself on third base with Shelby Taylor at the plate. Taylor hit a rocket down the third-base line that the fielder could not handle. Parrish hesitated for a moment and then broke for the plate, scoring the first run of the game for the Dragons.
After UNCW answered with an unearned run to tie the game, Jess O’Hara led off the fourth inning for Drexel and made the most of her opportunity. O’Hara got on base by beating out a ground ball to the right side of the infield and then stealing second. She took the lead back for the Dragons by advancing to third and then taking home on consecutive wild pitches.
Drexel tacked on another run in the fifth. Maggy Fermo legged out a ground-ball single, and a Taylor single put her in scoring position. Fermo then scored the third run of the game for the Dragons when Sylvia Llamas brought her home with a single through the right side.
As Drexel was leading 3-1 going into the sixth inning, Konopka helped herself out by singling, and her pinch runner, Lara Horwitz, was able to score and finish off the Seahawks by a score of 4-1.
Game 2 of the doubleheader was a low-scoring affair until the fourth inning. The Dragons put three runs on the board, and it started with O’Hara once again.
O’Hara stuck out swinging, but the catcher could not handle the pitch, allowing her to beat the throw to first base. After Maddison Timoteo singled, Jill Popek found herself at the plate with no outs and two runners on base. Popek delivered a double to right field, scoring O’Hara from second and advancing Timoteo to third base. After Ellen Scott walked and Horwitz struck out, Parrish was up with the bases loaded and two outs. Parrish got hit by a pitch, bringing Timoteo home. Fermo was up next and walked, bringing Popek home for the third run of the inning.
UNCW stormed back with two runs in the bottom of the fourth, but the Dragons responded with one run in each of the final three innings. In the fifth, Popek kept her hot bat going by driving in Llamas with a single. Taylor did the same by hitting a sacrifice fly that brought Parrish home in the sixth. Timoteo then doubled in the seventh, and pinch runner Bianca Iamurri scored off a hard-hit single up the middle by Scott. This gave Drexel the 6-2 lead, and Taylor was credited with the win after going five solid innings for the Dragons.
Ervin was proud of her team’s focus. “We were able to put runs on the board because the girls really executed with bunts and hits and runs. We got people on base and moved them and scored,” she said.
The next day, Drexel closed out the three-game series with the Seahawks. However, the Dragons offense was unable to help Konopka, who held off the UNCW offense for nearly 13 innings.
Drexel took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third after a ground ball by Fermo allowed Horwitz to score the first run of the game. The Seahawks answered back quickly with a run of their own in the bottom of the third, tying the game 1-1.
The score remained tied thanks to a spirited performance by Konopka. But in the 13th inning, Konopka gave up a walk-off home run to Lauryn Buckworth, who recorded all of the Seahawks’ RBIs in the game, to seal the 3-1 Drexel loss.
“I thought Tara really came into her own this weekend,” Ervin said about her young pitcher. “She was using a variety of pitches and getting ahead. I was very proud of her toughness.”
Drexel now sits with a record of 15-35 and a CAA record of 2-16. This may be the right time to be getting their timing down as they travel to take on conference foe George Mason University May 3-4 for a three-game series.
This could be another successful series for the Dragons, as the Patriots have also struggled this year, holding a record of 15-37 and a CAA record of 3-15. This is a very big series for Drexel, as a few wins would allow the team to surpass GMU in the standings and possibly UNCW as well.
Drexel was scheduled to play a doubleheader against Villanova University April 30, but inclement weather forced it to be canceled.
Although Drexel cannot qualify for the CAA Tournament, this final week may serve as great experience and momentum for the new coach and her young team.
“I would like them to have fun and execute so we can walk away with some wins and end the season on a high note,” Ervin commented on the team’s final stretch. “I want them more than anything to enjoy their last weekend together.”
Winning against CAA rival George Mason could leave the Dragons with a pair of good wins, and more importantly, some confidence heading into the offseason.