By Nick Forbes Asst. sports editor
Opening weekend did not go as planned for the Susquehanna softball team, as they were swept in the double header against nationally-ranked Virginia Wesleyan on Feb. 19.
The River Hawks were shut out in the first game 8-0, and they lost the second game by a score of 4-1.
The River Hawks, who came into the season with last year’s Landmark Championship loss to Moravian fresh on their minds, had their bats nearly completely silenced on offense, mustering only two hits throughout the first five-inning contest.
Sophomore Jackie Gore, who was the 2016 Landmark Conference home run leader, and freshman Kasey Bost accounted for Susquehanna’s two hits against Virginia Wesleyan freshman pitcher Hanna Hull. Hull pitched all five innings and recorded nine strikeouts.
On the mound for the River Hawks was senior Jamie Fesinstine, who pitched four full innings, allowing seven runs on eight hits while striking out six batters.
Susquehanna brought in junior Jessica Juhlin to pitch in the fifth, but after allowing one run on zero hits, the Marlins pulled ahead 8-0 and the game concluded due to the eight-run mercy rule.
After scoring on a sacrifice infield fly in the first inning, the Marlins were held in check until the third inning, when they exploded for five runs on five hits.
The Marlins added two runs over the next two innings to put the game out of reach.
Despite the 4-1 score of the second game, offensively it was even worse for Susquehanna. The River Hawks’ only run came in the first inning when junior second baseman Brooke Kohler walked and then advanced to second on a groundout from junior shortstop Heather Pearson.
A wild pitch moved Kohler to third, and she eventually scored one batter later on junior thirdbaseman Emilie Boman’s sacrifice ground-out to first base.
Susquehanna’s run came despite registering zero hits.
After that, Virginia Wesleyan junior catcher Cassetty Howerin responded in the bottom of the first by taking hold of a pitch from sophomore Alexis Gonzalez and driving it over the left-field wall for a two-run shot that gave the Marlins the lead.
Gonzalez, who was a major player on the mound for the River Hawks last year, settled in after the first inning and did not allow any more runs until the fifth inning.
But it was another Marlin freshman who stole the show, as pitcher Courtney Wright delivered a no-hitter in her collegiate debut against the River Hawks.
Frustrating the River Hawks’ normally explosive offense was the key in hanging on in this matchup. She finished with five strikeouts and two walks.
Leading by only one run for the majority of the game, the Marlins found the edge they needed to win in the fifth inning, when sophomore center fielder Beth Ford and junior shortstop Kiersten Richardson singled in back-to-back appearances at the plate.
After Gonzalez allowed a walk, Marlins’ senior right fielder Blake Henderson drove a single to center field that scored Ford and Richardson, bringing the score to the final of 4-1.
Gonzalez pitched the entire game and finished with four runs allowed on six hits and four strikeouts.
While the result was not what the River Hawks had hoped to start the season with, the Marlins are a stout opponent, peaking at No. 1 in the DIII NCAA national rankings last year, and sitting at No. 25 this year.
The River Hawks will have a few weeks off to rest before the start of their spring training trip in Florida, where they hope to fix mistakes made in the games against the Marlins and refocus on their ultimate goal of winning the Landmark Conference.
“If we continue to work hard in practice, stay positive and focus in games, we have the ability to win a championship,” Gore said. “Our main goal for this year is to work on our mental game both on and off the field. We’re a strong knit family. We do everything together.
The first day of the trip on March 12 pits Susquehanna against Arcadia and SUNY Geneseo in a doubleheader.