ABINGTON, Pa. – The 2012 softball season came to a close Tuesday for Gallaudet University as the Bison split a North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) doubleheader on the road against Penn St.-Abington at Huntingdon Fields. The Bison demolished the Nittany Lions in the first game 21-7 in five innings before throwing away the second game, 4-3, after leading 3-0 heading into the seventh.
Gallaudet (8-28, 6-14 NEAC South Division) had a tough month of April to close out the season as the Bison posted a 5-11 record, all NEAC games. The Bison finish fifth out of six teams in the NEAC South Division.
The Bison exploded for 13 runs to start the first game against Penn St.-Abington (12-20, 8-12 NEAC South). Every starter for Gallaudet had one hit including seven players that had multiple hits as eight starters scored a run and collected at least one RBI.
Junior outfielder Alicia Johnson (San Jose, Calif.) had a two-run double in the second inning followed by another RBI-single by Fernandez as the Bison lead extended to 15, 16-1. Both teams scored four runs apiece in the third inning before the Bison tacked on a 21st and final run in the fourth. Abington had two additional runs in the bottom of the fifth to conclude the game. GU had 20 hits, seven extra-base hits and 16 RBI in the win.
Fernandez finished 3-for-5, four RBI and two runs scored followed by sophomore Rachel Sweigart (Big Rock, Ill.), who had a double, triple as she went 3-for-4, three runs and one RBI. Cantu was the third player to collect three hits as she went 3-for-4 at the plate with three RBI, two runs scored in her final day in a Bison uniform. Senior Easter Faafiti (Pittsburg, Calif.) and junior Nicole O'Malley (Fredericksburg, Va.) led the team with four runs scored each.
Freshman pitcher Montana Murphy (Simi Valley, Calif.) picked up the win as she pitched a complete game. Murphy (3-12) threw five innings where she allowed seven runs (four earned) on 10 hits, three walks and one strikeout.
The 21 runs scored are the most Gallaudet scored in a single game this season and the most since March 12, 2008, when the Bison defeated Lincoln (Pa.) University 26-1 and 24-4 in a doubleheader.
There was a pitching duel in the second game as Sweigart (5-10) went up against Nittany Lion starter Melissa Kulp (1-6). Hits were hard to come by in this game. Sweigart surrendered a single in the bottom of the second inning and a bunt single in the fifth, as the game remained scoreless. Kulp took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before O'Malley singled. Johnson later singled to score sophomore Kara Gulvas (Crown Point, Ind.) for the first run of the game. Fernandez followed with a two-run single to plate Faafiti and O'Malley as the Bison led 3-0. The Nittany Lions only had a single in the bottom half as the game went to the seventh inning.
Sweigart doubled to leadoff the seventh for the buff and blue. GU picked up two quick outs before Sweigart advanced to third on a Kulp wild pitch. Freshman Victoria Rainey (Danvers, Ill.) struck out swinging to end the threat for the Bison.
The Nittany Lions loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh as one runner reached base due to a Bison error. Sweigart then hit Christina Rodriguez with a pitch to force home a run, 3-1. The next batter popped out to give Gallaudet its second out of the inning. Sweigart walked Mariellen Medernach to force in another run and cut the Bison lead to one, 3-2. Trish Watson ended the game when she reached on a second error by the Bison infield as Rodriguez and Jalissa Clarke scored to end the game.
Errors and missed opportunities cost the Bison a handful of games this season as GU made 114 errors in 36 games, over three a game, to post a .887 fielding percentage. This is the second straight year GU made 100+ errors in the field. Gallaudet will lose three seniors to graduation but have a young but experienced nucleus to build off of in 2013 as the Bison aim to improve its fielding and their standing in the NEAC South Division.