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March 31, 2012

 

Red Dragons finish off sweep with bat barrage

SlideJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland’s Jessica Harman swipes second base during Friday’s conference softball opener against Brockport, visiting shortstop Jenna Yates taking the late throw at Dragon Field. The Red Dragons swept Brockport 3-1 and 18-4.

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

This day concluded with some pretty sloppy execution by the SUNY Cortland softball squad.
Yes, indeed, there was plenty of unsightly fumbling and bits of confusion as players tried to get a firm grasp on how to handle the infield tarp to get the Dragon Field dirt covered with inclement weather in the immediate forecast.
“This is a brand new tarp. We have never put it down before,” explained Red Dragons head coach Julie Lenhart after her squad finally figured things out and completed the post-game task.
That was pretty much the only time Coach Lenhart’s nationally-ranked outfit seemed out of sorts while knocking off visiting Brockport twice on Friday afternoon to get SUNY Athletic Conference play underway.With clear, blue-skided conditions in the opening game, senior pitcher Lindsay Rowell retired the final eight batters she faced to finish off a 3-1 victory for the defending conference champions over the Golden Eagles. Then as things become overcast and the temperatures chilled for game two, Cortland bats heated up in an 18-4 rout that was halted after five innings by the eight-run mercy rule.
Ten of the Red Dragons’ 19 hits in the nightcap were scored during an 11-run third inning outburst, featuring a two-run homer off the bat of sophomore right fielder Meghan Kohler and a three-run blast by junior second baseman Lucia Meola.
“It’s a nice way to win at home and open up, having two league wins,” is how Coach Lenhart summed things up after her Cortland squad ranked 19th in the most recent Division III national poll improved to 12-4 on the season in its 2012 Dragon Field debut.
This sweep came against a Brockport squad that had won 11 of its opening 12 games, that had reeled off nine consecutive victories after losing 2-1 to Michigan’s Finlandia University during a week stay in Florida.
“What hurt us, we haven’t played in two weeks,” noted Brockport coach John Dumaw, this team idle since that trip south. “You can’t come in against these guys not playing games. We did well down in Florida and played well, but it was 85 degrees down there, too, and that helps.”
BROCKPORT BATTLED in the opening game, in which both sides collected seven hits as Rowell and Brockport senior starting hurler Jean Farrell dueled.
This game was scoreless until the bottom of the fourth, when Cortland finally broke through starting with Cassie Kardias and Jessica Harman lining opposite field singles into right field. When a late bid to throw out Kardias at third failed, both runners were in scoring position with just one out.
Kayla Lynch’s sharp single to left scored Kardias for a 1-0 lead, though the Red Dragons were denied more runs when catcher Briana Barca lined out to right and No. 9 batter Tara Dommino had a potential extra-base hit run down in the gap.
Brockport then caused trouble in the top of the fifth when crafty leadoff hitter Caitlyn Rana stroked a single into left field, followed by infield hits by Courtney Claflin and Emily Dumas that loaded the bases with no outs.
Rowell buckled down and only gave up a run when Liz Hochman was hit by a pitch to force home a run. That came between two ground balls were Cortland threw the lead baserunner out at home, before an infield pop-up ending Brockport’s threat for more damage.
Then with two outs and Lorraine Stoddard after drawing a walk, Kohler drilled a ball just inside the bag at third for a go-ahead RBI double — Stoddard sprinting all the way around from first base to score. Kardias followed with a single to left for a 3-1 lead that Rowell was able to protect, Brockport retired in order in the sixth and seventh innings.
Kardias, Harman and Lynch each had two hits as Cortland grabbed that crucial opening victory, Rowell with four strikeouts and walking a lone batter while improving her mound mark to 6-3.
“The first game is probably what we expected. We knew it was going to be close, they’re a good team,” said Coach Lenhart. “The second game, I don’t know what happened We just had an explosion there. Our lineup top to bottom is so good, but it really looked good in the second game. It was fun.”
“I EXPECTED TO be fine in the first game, but they were all freshmen pitchers in the second game and I didn’t know what would happen,” said Brockport’s Dumaw, who used frosh starter Leslie Dempsey, sophomore Eric Fleming (who had appeared in the opening game facing three batters) and rookie Jaritza Aviles.
“Cortland’s a good team, we know that. We play them year in and year out. We played well in the first game but they were scared to death, the freshmen. They were in awe of Cortland,” he added.
Brockport held a 1-0 lead when Cortland showed signs of what was to come when Stoddard, Abby Martin and Kohler hit back-to-back-to-back doubles — the latter a blow off the fence in center. Harman added a run-scoring single and the Red Dragons were up 3-1.
It was a close 3-2 game heading into the third when the roof caved in on Brockport, who committed three errors to keep an inning alive in which Cortland sent 16 batters to the plate.
Martin’s double off the wall in left-center and Kohler’s home run lined over the fence in center got things started, Meola coming up with her homer a bit later after singles by catcher Devon Wild and first baseman Nicole Gallo, Kardias also just missed a home run during the scoring spree, coming up with an RBI double off the fence.
Even when Coach Lenhart emptied the bench in the bottom of the fourth, Cortland added four more runs with Alica Hibbard driving in two teammates. Hibbard was 2-for-2 with three RBI in her two plate appearances.
Harman was 3-for-3 with three RBI, while Meola, Martin, Kohler and Wilder had two-hit outings.
Senior Morgan Kuhn, who came on to get starting hurler Martin out of bases-loaded third inning trouble by allowing just a sacrifice fly for a run, picked up the pitching win.
Brockport got a two-run home off the bat of Kayla Ladd before the final fifth inning concluded for some consolation.
Now Cortland can only hope its post-game tarp work will pay off, the Red Dragons scheduled to host Geneseo at 1 p.m. if the weather cooperates.

 

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