Graduate catcher Jordyn Nowakowski in a game against Fairleigh Dickinson on March 25. Nowakowski had a solo homer in the fifth inning of a game against Hartford on April 3. SARA RUBERG/THE STATESMAN

With a three-game sweep of the Hartford Hawks this weekend, Stony Brook’s softball team improved to 5-0 in America East play — its best start since 2012. Three graduate students — pitcher Melissa Rahrich, center fielder Jourdin Hering and catcher Jordyn Nowakowski — combined for 14 RBIs and four home runs, while Rahrich and senior Dawn Bodrug allowed only three runs during the series.

Led by three RBIs each from Rahrich and Hering, the Seawolves scored seven runs in the first inning of Saturday’s opener en route to an 8-0 mercy-rule win. 

Bodrug tossed her fourth shutout of the year, striking out 11 and allowing one hit over five innings. Though she hit two of the first three batters with pitches, she regrouped and showed the excellent ball control that has characterized her season thus far.

“[Bodrug] has got the pitches, she’s got the speed, she’s got the mindset,” head coach Megan T. Bryant said in an interview with The Statesman. “She’s a competitor, and she’s got to rank up there with some of the best we’ve had in our program.”

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Rahrich opened up the scoring with a three-run homer straight through center field that drove in Hering and freshman second baseman Kyra McFarland. Two outs followed, but sophomore right fielder Shauna Nuss started a rally with an RBI single that loaded the bases. Back at the top of the order, Hering tripled to right field to give Stony Brook a 7-0 lead. 

Nowakowski extended the lead with a solo homer in the fifth inning.

Another blowout followed later in the day, this one a balanced 6-1 victory that featured Seawolves runs in five different innings and a season-high 13 hits. Rahrich had her third straight impressive start on the mound, lasting all seven innings while allowing five hits.

The first four Stony Brook batters all got hits, capped by RBI singles from McFarland and senior shortstop Nicole McCarvill. 

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Hartford third baseman Cori Jones responded with a solo home run in the bottom of the first. In response, Rahrich retired the next 11 batters with a streak of infield groundouts.

Meanwhile, Nowakowski slowly put the game out of reach. Her single in the third inning and home run to lead off the fifth gave her three RBIs on the day. Rahrich and junior first baseman Lindsey Osmer added scores of their own in between.

On Sunday, the Seawolves appeared rusty at first — Bodrug allowed two home runs in the first two innings, and the team was faced with their first deficit of the weekend. But a third inning home run from Hering tied the score and gave the Seawolves momentum to complete a 6-2 win with 13 Bodrug strikeouts.

“The second day is always a lot harder,” Rahrich said in a press release. “We have sore bodies. But staying in it and putting pressure on the defense and manufacturing runs is how we’re able to grind it out. Obviously we’re not going to put up seven runs in the first inning every time. It doesn’t always have to be the long ball that scores the runners. Most of the time it isn’t.”

Rahrich kicked things off with an RBI double in the first to plate McFarland, but the Hartford home runs put Stony Brook down 2-1 heading into the third. After the second homer, Bodrug struck out the next three batters and did not give up another hit the rest of the game.

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Both offenses went quiet after Hering’s home run, her team-high fourth of the season, until Rahrich hit an RBI single in the top of the sixth to plate Hering and take a 3-2 lead. 

“It’s textbook when we have fast runners on second,” Rahrich said. “All you really have to do is push the ball through the infield. That’s all that I did. It worked in my favor just getting something through the infield and knowing that Jay was going to score. Literally the first thing out of my mouth was, ‘Go, Jay.’”

Nowakowski followed with a sacrifice fly, and McCarvill added insurance in the seventh inning with a double that drove in McFarland and Nuss. McFarland, who already has an America East Rookie of the Week award under her belt, is developing into the team’s premier baserunner with 11 runs in her past eight games.

Including last weekend’s series with Binghamton, the Seawolves have now allowed three runs in five conference games. Stony Brook is also the only Division I school with undefeated softball and baseball teams.

The Seawolves play a home doubleheader against Hofstra this Tuesday before trying to avenge their loss to Fordham on Thursday.

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