Pitching fuels softball’s doubleheader sweep to open 2022 season

Riley Platt, Sports Editor

Featured image: Todd Drexler

The University of North Florida (UNF) softball team got their season off to a good start Friday, picking up a pair of wins on opening day thanks to some stellar pitching. 

The UNF Ospreys began the 2022 season by hosting the River City Leadoff, an event involving multiple teams from all over the southeastern United States. On Friday, the Ospreys got things started with a doubleheader against Campbell University and Florida A&M University (FAMU).

Starting at pitcher for the Ospreys in the opening match against Campbell was newcomer Erin Kyle, making her first appearance with the squad. Kyle didn’t let the new setting throw off her performance in her debut, though.

“I feel like the infield had a lot of energy and talk… that really settled me in,” Kyle said. “I really love it here and have made a lot of great teammates.”

This lack of nerves was apparent, as Kyle carved through everything the Campbell Camels threw her way. The second inning saw two darts hit right at Kyle, but she made key stops and got the outs at first base. 

The smooth sailing would come to an end in the third inning, though, with a pair of fielding mistakes allowing Campbell to score the first run of the game. Kyle wasn’t phased, though, as she struck out Campbell’s Kayla Fredendall to end the inning. 

Things were looking up in the bottom half of the third inning, as the Ospreys put two runners on base with no outs. A sacrifice bunt by Kayla Harper then advanced these runners to second and third base. Keeping with the theme of sacrifice, a sac-fly by Kayla McGory brought Maggie Trgo in to tie the game at one run a piece.

The Ospreys clamped down defensively, sitting the Camels down in order to get through the top of the fourth inning. In stark contrast, the bottom frame of the fourth would prove to be very fruitful for UNF.

Once again, a fielding error led to scoring. This time, though, it was Campbell that suffered. With runners on second and third with no outs, a pinch-hit single by Gianna Niemeier that never left the infield was able to plate two more runs, giving the Ospreys their first lead of the game, 3-1.

Campbell inched their way back into contention in the top of the fifth, scoring one run to narrow UNF’s lead to 3-2. The Ospreys responded quickly, though, as Shannon Glover ripped a home run over the left field wall to bump the lead back to two runs. The game hadn’t gone Glover’s way prior to that point, but she kept her head up, allowing the big swing.

“I hit two pop-ups right before that, so making those in-game adjustments is a big aspect of softball,” Glover said. “I was glad I was able to do that and finally get a good hit.”

The game ended in a 4-2 UNF win, with Erin Kyle picking up a complete game win in her first outing with the Ospreys. The former Lamar University Cardinal struck out four, while only allowing one earned run in her UNF debut.

While this win produced plenty of excitement, there was still another game to be played. UNF’s next opponent was the FAMU Rattlers, who had lost to Campbell earlier in the day. Starting for the Ospreys in this second match was senior Morgan Clausen, who delivered another stellar pitching performance.

This game was a pitching duel from the very start. UNF was getting runners on base, but they couldn’t score them. This inability to convert on scoring opportunities was highlighted in the bottom of the fourth inning, where the Ospreys loaded the bases. A ground out deflated this chance to break the game open, something that head coach Marcie Higgs addressed with her team.

“I just think we were trying to do too much,” Higgs said. “Just getting line drives back up the middle was kind of what we were shooting for and [we] got enough to get a couple of runs on the board.”

This adjusted mindset worked wonders, as the Ospreys opened the fifth inning with a pair of doubles, scoring the go-ahead run. While this was only one run, it looked like it might be all they needed with the night Clausen was having in the circle.

Niemeier came through once again, knocking a sacrifice fly to left field in the sixth inning, increasing UNF’s lead to 2-0. This did the job, as Clausen closed out the Rattlers with eight strikeouts while only allowing two base hits. A 2-0 win moved UNF’s record to 2-0, closing out opening day with a clean sweep.

___

For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact [email protected].