Syracuse Offense and Pitching Rolls in Home Opener
By Tom Russo
CitrusTV Softball Beat Reporter
“It felt good not to get on a bus. It felt good not to get on a plane. It felt good to not have to be somewhere at a certain time with everybody, and just like do your own thing.”
Alexa Romero perfectly summed up the feeling of finally getting to play softball on her home field after the first 29 games on the road.
She seemed to speak for everyone as Syracuse (12-18, 2-4 Atlantic Coast) looked rejuvenated in its home-opening doubleheader, sweeping Niagara (1-14, 0-0 Metro Atlantic Athletic) on Wednesday.
The offense exploded in the matinee, posting 12 runs on 11 hits in the 12-4 run-rule shortened victory. Those 11 hits were equal to SU’s hits through all three games against Boston College last weekend.
The Orange sprayed the ball all over the Skytop Softball Stadium. Alicia Hansen shot a triple into the left center field gap. Gianna Carideo led off the fifth with a triple off the right field fence for her first hit of the year. Bryce Holmgren’s double found the seven-eight gap as well.
Then there were the eight singles that fell just about everywhere, ranging from grounders that got by infielders to sharp base hits to the outfield.
The players attributed this newfound offensive success to being more aggressive early in the count.
“Our coaches really preach hitting the first pitch, giving ourselves three opportunities to hit the ball,” said third baseman Lailoni Mayfield. “Often times our first pitch is our best pitch so we have to attack that pitch.”
Romero pitched another strong game, tossing all five frames while striking out 10. She has now crossed the 500-strikeout mark for her SU career, but at the time, that wasn’t on her mind.
“I honestly had no idea. Going into that game I had no idea how many strikeouts I had,”Romero said. “Seeing that after the game felt really nice.”
Romero tacked on one more strikeout when she came in to save the 7-5 victory in the nightcap. Coach Shannon Doepking went to her best arm with the bases loaded to record one final out.
“If we’re gonna lose, we’re gonna lose with Lex on the mound,” said Doepking. “If we get into a tight situation, especially with the lefty up, it makes a lot of sense to go lefty on lefty.”
Romero was ready for the call.
“I kinda can read my coaches and kinda know when it’s go time,” said Romero. “I just make sure that I’m ready and warmed, and I know that if there’s a situation that’s gonna come up and they’re gonna put me in I’ll be ready.
Before Romero shut the door for her first save of the year, Sophie Dandola yielded six hits and five runs, but her defense did her no favors. SU committed three errors, including two in the third inning.
Fortunately, the offense did not go dormant in the second game as the Orange picked up eight more hits to drive in their seven runs.
The second game dragged to two hours and forty-five minutes in length because at least six Syracuse batters came to the plate in the first five innings.
Doepking confirmed the gameplan has remained the same, but today, the execution finally caught up.
“It’s been a gameplan all season, when we get good pitches, take good hacks at it,” said Doepking. “I think it’s more them learning how to embrace the process that we’ve talked a lot about. If we’re gonna go down I’d rather us have three opportunities to take hacks at pitches rather than us putting ourselves in holes where we get one good swing at one good pitch.”
Next, Syracuse looks to stay hot with its first ACC series at home when Notre Dame arrives at the Skytop Softball Stadium for a three-game set starting this weekend on Friday at 4:00 p.m.
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