Softball: Panthers drop first match, win second

By Torie Wytiaz

The Panther softball team spent the last days of spring break in Clearwater, Fla., as it… The Panther softball team spent the last days of spring break in Clearwater, Fla., as it competed in the USF Under Armour Softball Invitational.

But the less than desirable weather conditions postponed Pitt’s first game against Quinnipiac.

Head Coach Holly Aprile recognized that her team needs to be ready for such schedule changes.

“When you play an outdoor sport, [cancellations] are part of the deal,” Aprile said. “The biggest thing is that you are disappointed that you don’t get to play.”

When the Panthers did take the field, they fell to Quinnipiac 3-0, despite an early dominating performance by Pitt junior pitcher Alyssa O’Connell.

O’Connell held Quinnipiac scoreless for five innings, and the only runs allowed came off of a three-run homer in the sixth inning.

Offensively, the Panthers struggled to generate any sort of rhythm as junior Ashley Amistade earned Pitt’s only hit of the game.

However, an offensive surge propelled the Panthers to a 6-5 victory over Drake in their next game of the tournament.

All of the Panther’s runs came in the second inning, although only two hits were recorded. Sophomore Niki Cognigni sparked the offense by contributing two hits and driving in two runs.

Aprile noted that differences were evident in the team’s play against Drake as compared to the performance at the plate in the Quinnipiac game.

“We were confident, we were aggressive and we put the ball in play,” Aprile said. “Against Quinnipiac, we struggled to make proper adjustments. We need to commit to being aggressive at the plate at all times.”

The Panthers entered the next day of tournament play with scheduled games against Maine and Jacksonville State and similar outcomes ensued as Pitt again finished the day 1-1.

In a 7-5 win over Maine, the Panthers relied on three pitchers to secure the victory. Senior Kayla Zinger earned the statistical win whereas junior Cory Berliner recorded the save. O’Connell also faced the Maine batters, giving up four runs in three innings.

Aprile was pleased with the offensive production, especially from her freshman right fielder.

“All the players impress me at different times, but freshman Krista Rodgers has done really well at the plate,” Aprile said.

Rogers contributed two hits and one run in three at-bats in the Maine contest.

But the inconsistency of the Panthers appeared again in the final game of the tournament as Pitt fell to Jacksonville State 1-0 in eight innings.

Jacksonville State pitcher Ashley Eliasson earned a no-hit shutout as the Panthers failed to connect at the plate.

Aprile believes that the disparity in offensive production from game to game has a lot to do with mentality.

“A successful hitter will fail more than they succeed so you have to keep your failures in perspective or your confidence may wane,” Aprile said. “When you have big innings like the one against Drake, it helps build confidence if the team trusts in that success. Without trust, it is tough to repeat that success.”

The Panthers (8-9) will look to emphasize situational hitting and their short game as they prepare this week for the upcoming James Madison Invitational, which begins Friday when Pitt takes on Fordham.