Softball: Colonials crush King, breeze past Panthers in double-header opener


By the end of the second inning of Pitt softball’s double-header against Robert Morris, Tess Apke and Nicole Sleith had already made the Colonials fans feel confident.

Apke, a junior right fielder, drove in a run in the first, two more in the second, and Sleith, a junior left-handed pitcher, had allowed just one hit through the first two frames.

After the inning break, Pitt trailed 2-0, and the public address announcer at Vartabedian Field called for a vote, asking fans to cheer for one of three songs that would play later in the game.

Song one, Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” garnered no response from the 123 in attendance. The infectious, seemingly omnipresent “Timber” by Ke$ha elicited a single shriek. The even more infectious and definitely omnipresent “Happy” by Pharrell Williams drew the overwhelming applause of a group of five Robert Morris supporters.

But, they had reason to be happy.

Throughout the rest of the contest, Apke and Sleith continued to appease the Colonials (15-15) and their fans, leading to a 6-2 victory in seven innings over the Panthers in the first game of Tuesday afternoon’s doubleheader.Redshirt sophomore infielder Maggie Sevilla said Sleith presented a tough matchup.

“Sleith hits really good spots, and she has a really nasty changeup,” Sevilla said. “She does not walk people, so she doesn’t throw many balls, and she throws hard. She’s a pretty controlling pitcher, and she did a pretty good job with us.”

Conversely, the front end of the evening was one to forget for Pitt (11-15) and junior right-hander Savannah King. In just 10 pitches, King allowed a leadoff single to Jordan Gurganus, a single to Ashley Gerhart, Apke’s double off the right field wall and another single to Samantha Santillo.

King said she knew something was off, but wasn’t able to solve her ineffectiveness.

“It just wasn’t happening,” she said. “And I know I didn’t come out on my game, and I let it affect me.“

King (6-11) failed to record an out in the first, facing four batters and allowing two runs — all of which was enough to give her a loss.

Of course, a two-run deficit isn’t insurmountable, but the Panthers struggled to figure Sleith out, as she  added deception to her delivery by slapping her glove against her left thigh in the windup, then off her right hip upon release.

But the delivery failed to fool one Panther: first baseman Carly Thea.

A junior, Thea picked up a base hit in the second and knocked in two with a home run in the fourth inning. Thea’s blast, which coasted over the center field wall, highlighted the only significant offense Pitt could muster against Sleith, who finished with four strikeouts and no walks while allowing just five hits and two runs in a complete game win.

Meanwhile, Apke continued torching Pitt, collecting three more knocks against junior left-hander Alexa Larkin in Game 1. She went 4-for-4 with a home run, three RBI and two runs scored.

Apke crushed a two-run homer to center in second, sending center fielder Ashlee Sills to the ground after she ran out of room and into the blue padded wall. Sills’ spill was indicative of the entire contest: The homer put the Panthers in a 4-0 hole after two innings, and it was clear they had already fallen.

King said she wasn’t sure why Apke had such an easy time all afternoon, but indicated that the Colonials, who collected 13 hits, are a pesky bunch of hitters. 

“They aren’t really good with their mechanics,” she said. “But they’re just ready to swing at whatever is coming their way, and they do a good job of that.”

Larkin’s relief effort — she pitched seven innings with five strikeouts and allowed nine hits, three walks and four earned runs — was critical to not only keeping the game within reach, but also, to eating a game’s worth of innings. Thea said she appreciated the effort.

“We came out a little rough, but sometimes that’s going to happen and why we have multiple pitchers — to come in and help each other out,” she said. “The fielders will be there to pick each other up, and we’ll do our best to support our pitcher and back each other up and just hope that they can come out on top.”

Unfortunately for Pitt, though, that wasn’t the ultimate result.

Just before the Colonials’ two-run sixth inning secured a Robert Morris victory, Williams’ foot-tapping tune finally played over the loudspeakers and one of the five visiting fans bobbed along.

Clearly, they were still happy.