Softball powers through weekend against RPI rivals

This week’s packed lineup of games brought RPI softball’s regular season to a close. After being swept by Elmira and Utica Colleges, RPI put its solid six and two Liberty League record on the line against rivals Union College and Clarkson University this weekend.

On Saturday, the Engineers took on Union. In the first game of the doubleheader, ace junior pitcher Kristina Weltzin got the nod against Union’s Alysson Staats.

After Weltzin retired the side in the top of the first, the Engineers took advantage of a Union fielding error to manufacture their first run of the game on a bunt single by senior shortstop Tori Hunt to make it 1-0.

In the second inning, freshmen pitcher Stephanie Caudle and outfielder Morgan Kollmeier each singled to center and subsequently scored on a groundball single up the middle by sophomore second baseman Danielle Balestrini.

Union’s lone run of the ballgame came in the fourth when Weltzin uncharacteristically gave up three consecutive singles to load the bases and followed these with a two-out hit-by-pitch to force in Union’s Alyssa Wolejko and make the score 3-1, RPI. But, holding her nerves in check, Weltzin forced first baseman Kristin Schmidt to ground out to Balestrini and end the inning.

The final scoring of the game occurred in the bottom of the fifth when RPI augmented its lead with an RBI triple from junior third baseman Jena Servidone, and a powerful two-run home run from sophomore catcher Taylor Ten Eyck on the very next at-bat. These three runs gave RPI a comfortable 6-1 lead which it then nurtured for the remainder of the game.

In the second game of the doubleheader, Weltzin started against Union’s Wolejko. Union struck first with runs in both the first and second innings, including a home run by Union’s Camille Corbin, to make it 2-0 early. After two innings, Weltzin was replaced by sophomore pitcher Victoria Hepworth. From the third inning onward, both pitchers maintained control of the game and didn’t give opposing offenses many chances to rally.

It wasn’t until the fifth inning that RPI managed to score. After freshman infielder Courtney McArthur singled down the line and Kollmeier doubled to put runners on second and third base, Balestrini doubled to centerfield, sending both runners home to tie the score at two.

In the top of the ninth, Hepworth gave up a double to Corbin to start the inning. Then two groundouts allowed Corbin to score and gave Union a 3-2 edge going into the final half inning.

Caudle doubled to begin the inning. Then, freshman infielder Lillian Kolehmainen pinch ran for Caudle. With one out, junior Kathleen Baker singled and stole second to give Kollmeier runners on second and third with one out. A great day for Kollmeier got even better as she drilled her third hit to left field and brought home Kolehmainen to tie the score at three. Then, with the stage set for a dramatic finish, Balestrini challenged Wolejko with a well-placed bunt that she couldn’t handle and allowed Baker to scamper home and give RPI the comeback 4-3 victory.

On Sunday, RPI faced Clarkson for its final two Liberty League games of the regular season. These games were much less suspenseful as RPI defeated Clarkson by a combined score of 15-1 in the two games.

In the first game, Weltzin picked up a one-run, two-hit complete game victory as RPI scored six to Clarkson’s one. Hunt doubled, driving in Wollmeier, to give RPI a one-run lead in the first. Then, Clarkson scored its lone run of the series in dramatic fashion as Mackenzie Pelton failed an attempted steal of second while Alycia Short took advantage of the diversion to steal home and tie the game at one.

In the fourth, sophomore right fielder Morgan Ten Eyck doubled and subsequently scored on a sacrifice fly from senior third baseman Dani Grage to give RPI a one run lead. Then in the sixth, RBI singles by Caudle and Kollmeier stretched the lead to four. Finally, with still just one out in the sixth, Balestrini sacrifice-flied to center, bringing home Caudle to round out the scoring in an easy 6-1 win.

In the second game of the afternoon, RPI’s Weltzin successfully earned her second win of the afternoon. Furthermore, in her fourth start of the weekend, Weltzin saved her best for last, throwing a five-inning no-hit shutout to help RPI take a share of the Liberty League Conference title with the University of Rochester. In a 9-0 walloping of Clarkson, both Ten Eycks RBI singled in the third to give RPI a 4-0 lead.

Then, in the bottom of the fifth, M. Ten Eyck tallied her second RBI of the game to give the Engineers a 5-0 lead. Later, an error by Clarkson first baseman Kelsie St. Louis gave Rensselaer a 6-0 lead. Finally, with runners on second and third, McArthur crushed reliever Katie Pelton’s fastball over the fence for a three-run, walk-off homerun, the first round-tripper of her RPI career.

On Monday, April 28, RPI dropped a pair of games to non-conference opponent Ithaca College before winning two at Williams College on Tuesday afternoon to finish regular season play. With six wins out of 12 in the past week of action, RPI softball finished the regular season with a record of 22-16 and 10-2 in the Liberty League.

With four wins this weekend, the Engineers became co-champions of the Liberty League and earned home field advantage for the four-team Liberty League playoff tournament this weekend.