Ryan Flynn – General Assignment Reporter
The Northeast-10 leading Owls softball team swept their doubleheader this past Saturday, downing Umass-Lowell by the scores of 6-1 and 9-1. Southern outhit the Riverhawks 17-7 en route to the pair of easy victories. Their record moved to 31-5 overall and 19-3 in conference play.
Finishing first in the conference is a goal for the team, according to head coach Lisa Barbaro. Her team looks to finish strong in this, the stretch run of the season.
“We’re taking that turn where we should be playing playoff level softball,” Barbaro said. “It’s important to us, every game is important. We’re trying to take it one game at a time and not looking too far forward.”
In game one, Southern jumped on their opponent early via an RBI single by Kate Hoffman and a steal of home by junior Alyssa Downs. They would give up their lone run of the game in the following half inning because of a catcher’s error. Freshman starting pitcher Kelsey Cockrill then promptly stranded the bases loaded.
Four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning pushed Southen’s lead to five, and they would hold from here to take game one.
“I know that these are big games and that they’re third in our conference,” Hoffman said. “I just knew that we needed to play good defense and good offense, and I think the whole team as a whole [in] the second game did that well.”
In game two, Southern opened with a scoreless first inning. It marked the only inning that they wouldn’t score for the rest of the day.
Senior ace Jayme Larson, who pitched the second game, talked about playing with this high-powered offense at her side.
“Our team is amazing. Knowing that I can struggle a little bit, give up a couple runs; I can be off a little bit and know that they’re going to have my back is the best feeling in the world.”
Larson herself had a very good outing, striking out eight while allowing four hits and one run. Hoffman led the way once more, going 3-for-4 with three RBI, two runs and a two-run homerun in the fifth inning.
She knew she was going to get first pitch change-ups, Hoffman said of the at-bat, and was trying to avoid them instead of aggressively going after them. After being pitched a second change-up, she said she knew there wouldn’t be a third off-speed pitch in a row and geared up for a hard strike, which she promptly sent deep to left for the homer.
“Really happy with the hitting performance in game two,” Barbaro said. “I think it was a good team effort as far as the bats go. We’ve struggled a little bit with the bottom of our lineup really hitting the ball and today they hit the ball so I’m proud of them.”
The Owls scored a run apiece in the second and third innings before breaking out in the fourth for four runs. Hoffman then hit her two-run homer in the fifth and an RBI single in the sixth to end the game.
“This is our biggest week, our most important week,” Larson said. “And the fact that we started out so hot at the beginning [of the season], finishing just as hot is the hardest thing to do but it’s the most important. I don’t think we’ve ever wanted it this bad and had the skill and confidence to get to where we want to be.”