Shutout and shutdown: softball doubles down on victory against Lesley

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Photo: Sydney Ciardi

First-year utility Sam Zannotti went 3-5 over the doubleheader against Lesley College scoring three times while driving in two.

By Tyler Foy, Sports Editor

Emerson’s softball team triumphed in a doubleheader against Lesley College on Sunday, winning both games to bring the season record to 12-4.

The string of victories is only the latest in a strong season for the Lions, much improved from their 0-8 record in their limited 2021 season. Junior catcher Sophia Cloonan said this season’s mentality has been the difference-maker. 

“We have a tremendous energy that I’ve not seen on any softball team I’ve played on in my life,” she said. “No matter what the situation is, we’re as loud as possible—that’s a big plus for us right now.”

Emerson’s last match-up saw the end of a seven-game winning streak as Suffolk University beat the Lions twice on March 25. Head Coach Phil McElroy said the loss was necessary for improvement.

“Suffolk was a wake-up call,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of energy, and we’ve got a lot of good things going on here. But [we] don’t lose focus on what we’re trying to do on the field. Fun in the dugout needs to translate to focus when you get up to the plate.”

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After four canceled games in the past two weeks, the Lesley Lynx hadn’t played an inning on the diamond yet. The Lions knew to win they would need to refocus on being productive on the field.

First-year right-handed pitcher Jessica Gomez took the mound to start game one, setting the tone by striking out four batters in the first two innings.

With one down in the bottom of the second, senior left fielder Mary Kuczkowski worked a walk; she spent little time at first, stealing second and securing a spot in scoring position. An error by Lesley led to runners on the corners with one out. 

Cloonan slapped a single up the middle to score the first run of the day for the Lions. Emerson only scored once in the inning, but following another shutdown inning from Gomez in the top of the third, the Lions looked to rally.

The inning started with an error by the Lesley third baseman which allowed first-year infielder Sam Zannotti to reach first base. A wild pitch sent the runner to second base and a strikeout followed. Sophomore middle infielder Claire Overton stepped up to the plate and delivered a double to bring Zannotti home. 

Overton’s double kicked off a rally for the Lions, who loaded the bases with two outs. Cloonan delivered another key single—this time to the opposite field—and brought two runners home, advancing to second on a fielder’s choice.

With two runners still in prime scoring position, first-year outfielder Grace Beaulieu added another single and two runs to the inning. The inning ended with Beaulieu caught stealing.

Gomez didn’t allow the Lions to wait too long to return to the dugout, striking out another two batters before closing out the top of the fourth.

Photo: Sydney Ciardi
Sophomore middle infielder Claire Overton knocked in two RBIs in game one against Lesley

A Zannotti double got the offense rolling in the bottom half of the fourth inning, and Lesley’s starter Jordan Day hit a batter to put another runner on for the Lions. Overton sent the ball back up the middle to deliver another key single, scoring Zannotti from second. Senior first baseman Lexi Semanchik pulled another single into right-center which allowed for both base runners to reach home and put the Lions ahead 9-0. Another shutdown inning from Gomez, and the Lions claimed the first game via the mercy rule.

Cloonan, who led the Lions with three RBIs, said not over-complicating the at-bat was a massive contributor to her success.

“I really don’t think when I’m hitting,” she said. “Every now and then I might be finishing my walk-up song in my head … I know the situation but every time I go into the box, I treat it as just another at-bat.”

Senior right-handed pitcher Karagan Knowles started game two on the bump, putting up a quick 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts. It wasn’t until the third inning that either team mustered up some offense, with Emerson’s Semanchik lacing a single to center to bring in a run from second base.

The Lynx tied the game in the bottom of the third, after an error led to an RBI double. Knowles struck out the remaining batters and the teams switched sides.

The Lions strung together a single and double to put two runners in scoring position, both brought home by a Zannotti single. After four innings, Emerson led 3-1.

The Lynx put up another run in the fifth, but that would be the extent of their offense before Emerson loaded the bases with a single and two walks. Senior outfielder Calli Pratt drew a third consecutive walk, scoring one, and a Zanotti sacrifice fly scored another. With two outs and two runners on base, sophomore infielder Makenzie Killough opened the game with a double and cleared the bases, putting Emerson ahead 7-2. 

Lesley scored another run in the top of the seventh, but Knowles quickly struck out the last batter of the game, closing the doubleheader 7-3 with back-to-back wins. 

Starting pitching paved the way for the Lions, with Gomez and Knowles tallying a combined 17 strikeouts through 12 innings. McElroy said pitching a defense has been a major contributor to the team’s success with starters averaging 9.79 strikeouts per seven innings through 16 games. 

The secret to the increase in Ks? Repetition.

“What I’ve seen from behind the plate is a lot more consistency from everybody—every single one of our pitchers,” catcher Cloonan said. “I’ve caught all of them, and they’ve all put in the work to basically have more consistent at-bats.”

The team’s next game will be Emerson’s first NEWMAC matchup of the season, another doubleheader against Springfield College on April 2. The team plans to carry their offense to the next game to secure the victory.

“Our main goal as a team when we play on Saturday is to support our pitchers as much as possible,” Cloonan said. “We want to be able to score first and we want to stay above and win every inning.”