As senior Caitlin Ryan and freshman Jennifer Biondi stepped up to the plate on Saturday in the softball team’s doubleheader against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, neither thought that at-bat would be their last of the game.
The two players each launched walk-off home runs to eight-run rule — a mercy rule put into effect when a team leads by eight after five innings — the Red Hawks 10–2 and 8–0. But the two game-winners were just a pair of the Bombers’ five home runs in the two-game set.
“None of us were expecting to come back and hit five home runs in our first two games here at all,” junior Kait Dolan said. “All of us were shocked, but it was really cool to watch, that’s for sure. The walk-off part is always awesome, so I’m glad the two of them got to feel that.”
The Bombers saw contributions up and down the lineup, as five different players went deep.
“That’s huge because if we had had five home runs and it was the same two people, that’s great also,” Ryan said. “But the fact that it was five different people shows that we do have that power from top to bottom, literally. It’s just great to know that anywhere in the lineup someone can produce the home run power.”
Dolan said the coaching staff helped the team get the bats going by letting the athletes free themselves up. They weren’t concentrating on mechanics or situational hitting — instead they solely thought about hitting the ball hard.
While the team was happy with the surge of power, the key to its offensive strength was not just hitting the ball out of the park, but stringing base hits together. The Blue and Gold had 22 hits over the two games, which left a lot of room to drive runners in.
“We did a lot of things with two outs,” freshman Molly O’Donnell said. “We didn’t stop. We weren’t satisfied with five runs — we got all the way to eight-run ruling them.”
Ryan said putting together big leads early in the game not only helps build the team’s confidence at the plate, but it also helps the athletes’ play in the field.
“Even if you just have a one-run lead, it just helps to know that you do have that lead so you can relax a little more in the field and play a little looser, so you’re not as tense and you’re less likely to make mistakes,” she said. “Then you also know that if you do get runners on, you don’t necessarily have to make the tough play at the plate — you can just play to get outs when you’re up by a bunch of runs.”
This confidence was evident for O’Donnell and Biondi, as they both picked up their first career home runs Saturday.
“I wasn’t expecting it to come that early — in our first game at home,” O’Donnell said. “I didn’t think it was going to be a home run. I thought it was too high. But then I heard everyone yelling. I realized it when I was at second base.”
The team looks to continue to dominate at home with a stretch of four doubleheaders coming up at Kostrinsky Field, starting at noon Saturday against Empire 8 rival Stevens Institute of Technology.
“We’re confident in protecting our home field,” O’Donnell said. “It would have been different if we had lost. Now having these two big wins and big run-producing games, it’ll just be a huge confidence booster, and we know that no one can come to our field and beat us.”