Richard Pera, staff writer
The Kenyon softball team needed to sweep their final two doubleheaders of the season to qualify for the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) playoffs, but they fell just one win short. The Ladies topped Allegheny College on Saturday by scores of 2-1 and 5-4, and split the season-ending series with Denison University on Sunday.
Saturday’s doubleheader marked Kenyon’s home finale, and the Ladies treated the large home crowd to a pair of gutsy victories. Game one started well for the home team, as third baseman Lindsey Susolik ’16 homered to right field, giving Kenyon a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. After the Allegheny Gators tied it up in the next half inning, the game settled down. In the fourth inning, the Ladies broke the deadlock. Pinch runner Molly Goolman ’14, the team’s sole senior, scored the game-winning run on a wild pitch. Guided by ace pitcher Maddy Stark ’15, who conceded just four hits, the Ladies downed the Gators 2-1.
“I think a big part of Saturday was just increased energy and intensity that we hadn’t seen altogether all season,” Goolman said. “People were excited. We often let the little things get us down, but we don’t let the exciting things get us up. And, on Saturday, we really used the exciting things as motivation.”
Game two was especially dramatic. After a three-run burst in the fourth inning, Allegheny took a 3-2 lead on host Kenyon. The Ladies tied it up soon after, but the Gators went back ahead in the top of the seventh inning by stealing home. Just when it looked like Kenyon would choke in another conference game, a walk earned by Susolik to lead off the frame brought first baseman Chelsea Delaney ’15 to the batter’s box. The junior proceeded to crush a pitch deep beyond the fence, and the Ladies walked-off against the Gators, 5-4. Delaney was mobbed at home plate, and the team was still in the playoff hunt.
Sunday’s series in Granville, Ohio was just as eventful. Denison jumped out to a 3-1 lead after four innings in game one and held that advantage until the top of the seventh. Down two runs with two outs, one runner on base and with the postseason at stake, left fielder Jane Ghublikian ’16 launched a ball to deep left field, tying the game at three and forcing an extra two innings. Unfortunately, in the ninth inning, the Ladies failed to score the go-ahead run, stranding two baserunners. In the bottom of the ninth inning, the Big Red managed a walk-off RBI single, winning 4-3. In just a moment, Kenyon’s postseason hopes were dashed.
After that, the Ladies had to refocus on game two, which would be their season finale. “By that point, we knew we had nothing to lose, so it’s all about having a little pride in your teammates and in your school,” Goolman said.
If pride was the motivation, then it was particularly effective. Kenyon concluded its 2014 campaign with a 7-1 demolition of Denison, keyed by a five-run explosion in the second inning that chased the Big Red’s starting pitcher from the game. The Ladies amassed 13 hits and three walks, and all but one player in the Kenyon lineup registered a hit. Meanwhile, pitcher Sylvie Thomas ’17 was impressive in her final start, allowing only four hits without an earned run. Though it was not the way the team had hoped to finish the season, it was at least a victory.
Kenyon finished with a record of 22-16 (7-9 NCAC) and in sixth place in conference play. It was a tale of two halves for the Ladies, who went 12-4 on their season-opening Spring Break trip, and, after a trying string of postponements due to weather, finished Midwest play 10-12. However, the team understands that there is much to build upon, as the Ladies return all nine starters next season.
“The season was [a] disappointment as far as our record goes,” Goolman said. “We had too much raw talent to finish with the record that we finished with. But, there aren’t a lot of changes for Kenyon softball in the next year. So, I think we can learn from this season. There are nothing but good things coming for this group of girls and this Kenyon softball program.”