On the coldest day of the school year to date, the GW softball team kept warm by running the bases and making plays in the field.
The Colonials followed up an 8-0 win over overmatched Georgetown with a 5-1 victory over Howard on Sunday in the GW Fall Opener at Mount Vernon. The games took place a day after originally scheduled due to inclement weather Saturday.
Against Howard, the Colonials took an early 2-0 lead in the second inning with a two-out rally, then scored two more two-out runs in the sixth. Clutch hits by freshman Carrie Higdon and sophomore Jackie Yaniga put the Colonials ahead.
“I think this team has the attitude that it doesn’t matter what the score or count is, they’re playing every inning like it’s a 0-0 ballgame,” coach Joanna Ferguson said of the team’s production with two outs. “They play hard no matter what the situation is.”
Starting pitcher sophomore Gabby Culp allowed just one run over four innings and Higdon shut down the Hoyas in relief.
GW pitchers got lots of help from a fundamentally sound defense. Whereas its opponents had costly passed balls and errors, GW consistently made correct decisions and crisp throws in the field, making just one error, which was erased by a double play. Later, Yaniga threw out a Howard runner at home with a near-perfect throw from center field.
“Having confidence in your defense makes it that much easier,” Higdon said. “You don’t have to worry so much about your performance because if the ball gets put in play, you know an out’s going to be made.”
Pitcher Jen Hrycyna closed the game out by getting out of a bases-loaded jam.
In the first game against Georgetown, the Colonials started off slowly before adjusting to off-speed pitches in the third inning. A double off the right field wall by sophomore Chrysanthi Halkiotis, followed by consecutive two-out running-scoring hits put GW up 3-0 after three innings.
That was plenty of support for freshman Kristin Gallant, who made her first collegiate start memorable by not allowing a run in four innings of work.
Gallant’s battery mate, fellow freshman Elisa Van Kirk, put GW up 4-0 in the fourth with a long home run to left field. Four more GW runs were scored before the game was called after the sixth due to the eight-run mercy rule.
“Elisa is one of the power-hitters on the team,” Ferguson said. “We were just waiting for her to bust out and she did it today. I think she hit that ball further than anyone has hit it at this field. We’re excited about (Van Kirk and Gallant) – they were two of our big recruits for this year.”
The team opened its home fall season on a strong note, despite not having Atlantic 10 All-Conference shortstop senior Elena Meyers, who had offseason shoulder surgery and has not been cleared to play games yet. She has been practicing with the team, however, and is expected to be healthy in time for the spring season.
Even without any seniors or Meyers in the field, the young squad does not lack leaders or team unity. A point of emphasis by the coaching staff, players use a variety of chants and exclamations to support and communicate with each other in the field. The cohesiveness translates to everyone being ready to step in and make, plays should the need arise.
“We have sophomores and juniors that play like seniors, in terms of leadership,” Ferguson said. “They have a lot of energy, which they bring every day. We talk to the team about having lots of cheers and good communication on and off the field. We’re still working on it, but they bring that energy themselves.”
In its fourth year of existence, the softball program believes this is the year it will finally achieve its goals of making the A-10 Tournament and overtaking rivals Fordham and Massachusetts.
“I’m excited for this year,” Van Kirk said. “We’re playing really well, and the sky’s the limit. We’re going to be good.”