Freshman left fielder Sanzone in a game against UMass Lowell on April 28. She hit her first home run. of her college career during the game. ETHAN TAM/THE STATESMAN

It was a battle for first place when the Stony Brook softball team hosted UMass Lowell at University Field on Wednesday, April 28 for what could have been a standings-altering doubleheader. However, the Seawolves made the most of their opportunity, extending their hold on first place in the America East from two games to four by sweeping the series in thrilling fashion.

UMass Lowell had the chance to even itself up with Stony Brook in the standings, as a sweep for them would have made both teams 7-3 in conference play. 

Playing their most important series to date, the Seawolves turned to senior pitcher Dawn Bodrug for game one. Bodrug was coming off of an untouchable weekend performance in Maine, where she pitched complete-game shutouts on both Saturday and Sunday, striking out 22 batters in the process. She entered with a 23.1 innings scoreless streak. That was snapped immediately.

Graduate shortstop Courtney Cashman led off for the River Hawks with a home run to left center field. Graduate designated player Christina Rizzi then singled to right field to follow up Cashman’s blast. Right after that, Bodrug found her stride and struck out the next three hitters she faced. 

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In the bottom of the third, the Seawolves bats broke through off River Hawks senior pitcher Lovina Capria. Freshman left fielder Juliana Sanzone tied the game leading off, hitting the first pitch she saw over the center field fence for the first home run of her college career. 

“I was waiting for it. It’s about time that I got one of those pitches to hit out,” Sanzone said in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “Coming around first base, I was like ‘yeah, I can start taking a jog.’”

Graduate first baseman Melissa Rahrich drove in the go-ahead run with an RBI single to left field, scoring graduate center fielder Jourdin Hering, who drag-bunted a single and stole second. 

Bodrug dominated after her rough first inning, retiring 21 of her last 24 hitters and only surrendering one more hit en route to another complete game. Rahrich’s RBI single in the third ended up being the difference in the 2-1 win, assuring that they would leave the series still in first place.

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“It’s extremely important because it’s only going to help us in the tournament,” Bodrug said about the importance of the win in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “It’s huge when we can go in with the opportunity to host at home, and that’s what everybody wants.” 

Bodrug struck out 12 while only walking two and scattering three hits. She improved to 13-4 on the year, with a 1.27 ERA and 186 strikeouts.

“I got better throughout the game, and that allowed me to trust my pitches even more,” she said, describing how she bounced back after allowing the homer to Cashman, who she credited as a great hitter. “I was able to make them uncomfortable.” 

The second game was just as tightly contested and outdid the first in terms of excitement. Rahrich moved over from first base to the circle, as junior infielder Lindsey Osmer filled Rahrich’s place at first base after being the designated player in game one. 

Rahrich also went the distance for Stony Brook, allowing two runs (one earned) in seven innings. Both runs came in the top of the fourth, as the River Hawks put together a long two-out rally with three straight hits, a walk and an error by senior shortstop Nicole McCarvill. McCarvill bobbled a ground ball with the bases loaded, letting the second run score unearned.

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The Seawolves didn’t score until the bottom of the fifth when Hering doubled home Sanzone for her third hit of the afternoon and her fifth double of the year. Rahrich kept UMass Lowell scoreless the rest of the way, aided by some clutch defense by McCarvill, who made up for her error by saving a run on two different occasions. 

In the top of the seventh with a runner on third and nobody out, McCarvill made a diving stop and held the runner at third before throwing to first for the out. She did it again with two outs in the seventh, laying out to field a hard-hit ground ball, then getting the runner at first base to save a run. Her big-time defense helped keep Stony Brook in striking distance of UMass Lowell’s lead.

Still down 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh, sophomore right fielder Shauna Nuss reached on a bunt single and Hering bunted her over to second. With the tying run in scoring position, freshman second baseman Kyra McFarland delivered with an RBI single, grounding it through the middle of the diamond. Rahrich moved the potential winning run into scoring position with a single of her own. Then came Osmer to play the role of hero.

With two outs and the winning run on second, Osmer lined a pitch over the left fielder’s head, allowing McFarland to score for a 3-2 Stony Brook walk-off win.

“I was ready for her inside pitch again,” Osmer said in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “Right off the bat I knew I was going to win it. I’ve done it once before this season, and I was ready to do it again.”

By sweeping Wednesday’s doubleheader, Stony Brook improved to 23-9 overall and 9-1 in conference play.

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“It’s the most exciting thing,” Osmer said about taking a four-game lead into their next series. “This season, we’re set up to do something great, and we’re in first place. We’re going to keep it that way.”

The Seawolves will head to the state’s capital this weekend to take on UAlbany for a three-game series as they inch closer to the postseason.

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