By: Roberto De La Rosa-Finch – Assistant Online Editor
The Dayton softball team, now with a record of 20-15-1, played outstandingly last weekend against La Salle, outscoring the Explorers 10-2 in a three-game sweep at UD Softball Stadium.
After a tough 1-0 road loss to No. 23-ranked Ohio State on April 13, Dayton was able to bounce back against La Salle.
The Flyers have been led by a pitching staff that has set the bar in the Atlantic 10 conference, leading the league in several statistical categories. After Saturday’s doubleheader victories, Dayton had a 1.96 earned run average, and had only given up 173 hits. The next closest team in that category, George Mason, has given up 212.
The pitching squadron, composed of every class with freshman Jessica Gilliam, sophomore Manda Cash, junior Gabby Snyder and senior Emily Froment allow a conference-low.197 batting average, and struck out a conference-best 225 hitters.
This dominant pitching continued throughout the series.
The first game of the doubleheader was a shutout led by Cash, who only allowed one hit in five innings pitched. With six strikeouts on 17 batters faced, La Salle couldn’t buy a hit.
Dayton’s bats put the team out in front early in the first with an RBI double from redshirt junior first baseman Krista Gustafson to bring in Snyder, who also doubled to reach base.
After a bunt single in the third by junior left fielder Hannah DeSalvo to advance sophomore shortstop Kayla Haberstitch to second, and a fielder’s choice by senior catcher Kathryn Hess, DeSalvo and Hess performed a successful double steal.
In what was nearly her first home run of the season, Snyder hit a high and long pop up to center that brought Hess home. By the top of the fourth, Dayton was up 2-0.
In the fifth, Haberstich blasted an RBI single up the middle that brought in senior second baseman Kennedy Haynes. Then, DeSalvo and pinch runner Kelly Fitzgerald scored two runs on wild pitches.
Soon after a pitching change, freshman outfielder Aspyn Novak, pinch running for Snyder, stole home. These steals were crucial, as the team had a total of five on the game.
Although Dayton was three-for-11 with runners in scoring position, key at bats and La Salle’s defensive woes kept the Flyers ahead. Snyder closed and came away with a save, not allowing a baserunner and utilizing the second-best fielding crew in the conference that stood behind her. Dayton came out with a 6-0 win.
Half an hour later, the two teams were set to face off again with Gilliam on the mound. Aside from a late home run by the Explorers’ Emma Schweigert to center, Gilliam produced great contact pitching. She let up only three hits, had four strikeouts and forced nine groundouts.
For the most part, the game was fairly close, with the deciding runs coming late in the fifth inning. Prior to that there were several 1-2-3 innings for both teams.
This game was no different than the one before in terms of speed. Dayton once again had five stolen bases that helped fuel its offense. After a single to center, Novak was able to steal second early in the fifth. Another single from freshman catcher Kyle Davidson advanced Novak to third. Jaclyn Kweder checked in to run for Davidson and stole second base. Then, Snyder was intentionally walked to load the bases.
With ducks on the pond, Gustafson was able to hit into a fielder’s choice that brought in Novak, her second run of the day. After Gustafson stole second, sophomore third baseman Kaliee Budicin rocketed one past third to bring in Kweder.
Snyder once again came in to pick up her second save of the day after Gilliam finished with five innings pitched. Repeating herself, she allowed zero hits but this time struck out two to close out the victory. Dayton went into Sunday with a 2-1 win.
Sunday, Dayton came out swinging. In the first, Snyder hit an RBI double along the right field line to bring Novak home. With runners on second and third, Budicin hit a deep sacrifice fly to left field to bring in Snyder.
Despite a shaky third inning with a fielder’s choice that brought in a run, supplemented by a throwing error, the Flyers’ pitching was rock solid.
Cash pitched a complete game, facing 24 batters and tossing 11 strikeouts. After the game, Cash explained how she kept her composure after that third inning.
“We scored early so that always helps, getting ahead there,” she said. “And I’ve got a great defense behind me, so I wasn’t concerned.”
Regarding pitching so well after pitching the day before, Cash said that she focuses on making sure keeps the opposing hitters guessing in order to sit batters down.
The 2-1 win on Sunday marked the seventh time head coach Cara LaPlaca has led the Flyers to a twenty-win season.
“Well, it’s just so humbling to be a part of this great program and great university,” she said after the game.
“Certainly it’s something we want to have longevity with, so it’s definitely a milestone and one we’ll cross off, and we’ll set our sight on our next goals.”
The team will host the Ohio Bobcats (25-16) for a doubleheader on Wednesday, April 20, at 3 p.m.