The road to the Empire 8 Conference title will run through Kostrinsky Field, which has historically been a difficult place for opposing teams to play, after the softball team (22—11 overall, 10—0 Empire 8) clinched the top seed in the conference tournament.
The Bombers defeated the Alfred University Saxons with victories of 2-0 and 8-1 on Wednesday afternoon, maintaining their perfect conference record this season.
Junior infielder Molly O’Donnell said the South Hill squad is right on schedule with its preseason goals.
“These games challenge us, but it’s always an expectation for us in the beginning of the year to sweep the conference,” O’Donnell said. “The biggest thing we think of is win every game, and then we don’t have to travel as much for the postseason.”
In game one, the Bombers and Saxons could not muster a run until the fourth inning when junior rightfielder Adrienne Walters hit a ground ball to score sophomore second baseman Julianne Vincent and give the Bombers a 1-0 lead. Walters also knocked in the game’s second and final run on a sacrifice fly.
Those two runs were more than enough insurance for sophomore pitchers Sam Bender and Jillian Olmstead, who combined for a three-hit shutout. Bender pitched five innings and collected her 10th win of the year while Olmstead picked up her fifth save. That total puts Olmstead in a tie for fourth place among all Division III pitchers in games saved.
In the second game, the Blue and Gold asserted their dominance over the Saxons by scoring six runs in the first inning. Sophomore leftfielder Rachael Dell’Orto started the action with a leadoff double and later scored on an Alfred fielding error. The Bombers then loaded the bases for Vincent’s 2-RBI double, and then freshman centerfielder Monica Capolongo hit another 2-RBI double to solidify the early lead.
Freshman shortstop Francesca Busa also added to the lead by hitting a solo home run to left field, which was her first of the season. The Blue and Gold combined for a total of 13 hits for the game.
Olmstead took the circle again for the Bombers and pitched all seven innings for a complete-game effort. The win marked Olmstead’s 12th victory of the season.
Alfred Head Coach Gino Olivieri said her squad had to overcome its own mistakes just as much as the Bombers’ stellar pitching.
“We feel like we just beat ourselves in a lot of areas,” Olivieri said. “We had a very difficult time adapting to their pitching even as the game went along, and you can’t make those kind of mistakes against a good team.”
The Blue and Gold will face Cornell University in the battle of Ithaca beginning at 3:30 p.m. today on Kostrinsky Field. Last season, the Bombers took the Big Red to extra innings but fell in the final frame on a walk-off grand slam. Head coach Deb Pallozzi says that game is still fresh on her players’ minds.