Softball opens conference play

The Sonoma State softball team hosted four games this weekend against their first conference opponent this year - the Cal State Monterey Bay Otters. The first two games were played on Friday followed by the final two on Saturday. The Seawolves took an early 1-0 series lead after Friday’s opening game, but proceeded to lose the last three to finish the weekend. 

Coming into the series, SSU and Monterey Bay had very similar records. Sonoma State was 4-0, while the Otters were 4-1. This series was slated to be a good one since the preseason softball coaches’ poll selected Sonoma State to finish third in the conference, one spot ahead of Monterey. The Otters were un-phased by the preseason pick, taking three out of four from the Seawolves; but the series win didn’t come easy.

The first game set the tone for what would be a back-and-forth weekend battle. Monterey Bay took the first lead of the series on a passed ball in the top of the third inning, but wouldn’t hold the lead for long. In the bottom of the fourth, freshman Ashley Long tripled to deep center field to tie the game at 1-1. On the next pitch she gave the Seawolves the 2-1 lead, scoring on a wild pitch. Like the Otters, the Seawolves didn’t hold this lead for much longer either.

In the next half inning, a one-out base hit scored two Otter runs, helping them regain the lead, 3-2. That lead would hold until the bottom half of the seventh, when the game got away from Monterey.

The Seawolves quickly loaded the bases with no outs on a walk, single, and another walk. Two out of the next three batters then ended the game in dramatic fashion. Junior Amanda Rossetta was hit by a pitch, scoring fellow junior Keeley Ray from third base to tie the game, 3-3. Pinch-hitter Katy Bihl came up next, but hit a ground ball that got the catcher, Keisi Chinen, thrown out at home. Senior Hayley Condon then had her chance to win the game for the Seawolves with one out and the bases loaded. She, like Rossetta, was plunked on the elbow by a pitch, walking off with a 4-3 Seawolf victory. 

The second game on Friday was the only dull game this weekend. The Otters jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning. They would then extend their lead to 7-0 in the third inning. SSU got on the board in the sixth inning, seeing the first home run on the team this year. Chinen hit a two-run homer to left field, making the score 7-2. That would finish the scoring for the day for both teams, as they headed into Saturday split at 1-1 in games won.

 “It felt absolutely amazing to finally hit my first home  run, especially this weekend since I have been going through a slump,” said Chinen. 

She broke out of that slump in style and finished the weekend going five for 11 at the plate, thoroughly increasing her batting average on the season. 

The third game of the series needed the length of a baseball game to decide a winner. It seemed like the Seawolves were going to run away with this game since they were up 3-0 after three innings. SSU held onto the lead until the top of the seventh when the Otters tied the game at 4-4. They would then take the lead in the eighth, but the Seawolves weren’t ready to end the game just yet. Condon again came up in a big spot, and delivered once more. 

With runners on second and third, Condon tied the game with a single through the left side. She was cool, calm, and collected at the plate this weekend, especially in crunch-time. 

“Getting hit by a pitch wasn’t my ideal way of a walkoff, but it’ll do,” said Condon.

 “I was feeling very calm and confident at the plate this weekend. When I was up with runners on I knew I had to score my teammates.”

The third game would end 6-5 in nine innings in favor of the Otters, but Condon did all she could to keep her team in each game. She finished the weekend with a triple and five runs batted in, bringing her season total to a team-high 10.

Saturday’s final game of the series was another thriller. Monterey Bay had a 3-0 lead going into the bottom of the fifth. The Seawolves then scored four runs to take the lead on Condon’s triple and a double by senior Megan Konieczka. Coincidentally, the Otters rallied to put up four more runs in the top of the sixth. SSU would fail to score again, ending the game losing 7-4. 

“This weekend’s losses were tough. We were in every game but one. Us ahead, them ahead, us ahead,” said Head Coach Jennifer Bridges. 

“The way we played this weekend showed us what we need to work on, but more importantly that we have what it takes to succeed in our conference.”

The Seawolves travel to San Francisco to face the Academy of Art on Wednesday, Feb. 19 for a doubleheader starting at noon.