Softball musters massive five-win week

In three doubleheader match-ups, Engineers sweep two, split one

SOPHOMORE UTILITY PLAYER DANIELLE BALESTRINI PREPARES to swing at a pitch in the April 3 game against Casleton State College.

On Thursday, April 3, RPI softball hosted Castleton State College for a non-league doubleheader. What an afternoon it was for the Engineers, completely outmatching their opponents in an afternoon of sheer dominance. When the smoke finally cleared, RPI had outscored Castleton by a combined 14-0, taking both games to improve its record to 8-6.

In the opening contest of the afternoon, which was the home opener for RPI softball, RPI’s senior starting pitcher Kristina Weltzin faced off against Castleton’s Cassidy Tedeschi. In the top of the first, RPI’s sophomore second baseman Danielle Balestrini bunt-singled to start the game and then stole second. A freshman rightfielder Morgan Kollmeier groundout allowed Balestrini to advance to third. Then, a clutch two-out single past Tedeschi by junior third baseman Jena Servidone allowed Balestrini to score the opening run of the game. In four innings of work, this was the only run Tedeschi surrendered. Meanwhile, Weltzin allowed just one hit in her first four innings for Rensselaer.

In the fifth inning, Castleton’s Katie Gagne came on in relief of Tedeschi. The game remained 1-0. But that changed in the top of the sixth. Sophomore designated hitter Morgan Ten Eyck started the rally with a one-out single up the middle. Then freshman first baseman Courtney McArthur singled to right center. A groundball to shortstop by Weltzin resulted in junior pinch runner Kathleen Baker being thrown out at third for the second out of the inning. A wild pitch from Gagne resulted in McArthur and Weltzin advancing to third and second base, respectively. Then the hammer, which came in the form of a two-RBI single to right field off the bat of Balestrini. Then Kollmeier powered a double to deep centerfield, scoring Balestrini to close out the scoring in the sixth.

Castleton managed a hit in both the sixth and seventh innings but mounted no serious threat to Weltzin’s 4-0 shutout victory. The three-hit complete game shutout was Weltzin’s fifth victory of the season and brought RPI back above .500 (7-6).

The second game turned out to be an extension of the first as RPI handled Castleton in a 10-0, five inning, mercy rule game. Once again, Balestrini bunt singled to start the game. This time Kollmeier also bunt singled, putting runners on first and second with no outs. A third bunt single by senior shortstop Tori Hunt loaded the bases. A grounder to shortstop by Servidone allowed Balestrini to score, while a fielder’s choice by shortstop Jessica Babcock got Castleton its first out at second base. A two-out walk by junior leftfielder Jocilyn Rudisill loaded the bases again. Ten Eyck subsequently singled, driving in Hunt for RPI’s second and final run of the first inning.

Two walks were all Castleton managed in the first inning as the score remained 2-0. Then, in the top of the second, senior third baseman Dani Grage led off with a single to left field, and Balestrini followed with a sacrifice bunt to move Grage to second. Then Kollmeier walked. Later, a wild pitch allowed Grage to move to third and set up a subsequent Kollmeier steal of second base. A walk by Hunt loaded the bases with still just one out in the inning. To start the scoring, Servidone RBI-singled to left field, driving in Grage. Then, a single up the middle by sophomore catcher Taylor Ten Eyck brought home both Kollmeier and Hunt to make it 5-0 RPI. Finally, a Morgan Ten Eyck single brought Servidone home to give the Engineers their sixth run.

After two innings, Castleton’s Kayla Wood came on in relief of starter Veronica Arnone and pitched two innings of shutout softball to keep the Spartans within six. But in the top of the fifth, a two-out rally by the Engineers put Castleton away for good.

Hunt started the run with a single to third base. Then, Servidone reached first on a hit-by-pitch. Then, an error by Castleton centerfielder Tori Fearon allowed both RPI base-runners to score while Taylor Ten Eyck advanced to second. A subsequent Rudisill groundball single moved T. Ten Eyck to third. Again, M. Ten Eyck came up with another big hit, singling in both T. Ten Eyck and Rudisill to make it 10-0.

The game finished in the bottom of the fifth; in NCAA Division Three Softball, if a team is ahead by at least eight runs after five innings of play, the game is declared over.

In addition to its victories on Thursday, Rensselaer softball also defeated Skidmore College 10-4 in the opening game of its Saturday afternoon doubleheader in Saratoga Springs. The second game saw RPI’s lone loss of the week as the Engineers fell to Skidmore 4-6 and ended their week with a solid three wins in four games.

Next the 8-6 Engineers will host St. Lawrence University Sunday, for a Liberty League conference doubleheader.