Softball left out of SUNYACs

The women's softball team needed some big wins in the last weekend of SUNYAC play to keep their playoff hopes alive, but dropped five of six games, bringing their season to an abrupt end.

The Lady Knights began the weekend at 9-7 in SUNYAC play and in a tight race with Oswego, Oneonta and New Paltz for the final postseason spots. Doubleheaders against New Paltz, Oneonta and Plattsburgh ensured that Geneseo would have a tough time getting in.

The weekend's match-ups didn't faze head coach Tony Ciccarello.

"I was very confident we would end up with a berth," he said. "I knew 12 wins would get us in."

The first game of Friday's twinbill against New Paltz started out favorably. The Lady Knights raced out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, courtesy of RBIs by juniors Liz Squairs and Kerry Kuhn and senior outfielder Kristen Newton. Geneseo's momentum would end there, however, as they failed to score for the remainder of the game, losing 11-3 in five innings.

The second game offered far more entertainment value for the home crowd, stretching ten innings before New Paltz emerged with a 5-4 victory. Kuhn tossed a complete game for Geneseo, allowing just two earned runs in what was a significant blow to Geneseo's playoff chances. Sophomore infielder Sam Chin went 2-5 and scored twice, with Kuhn contributing an RBI at the plate.

Even after being swept by the Hawks, the Lady Knights still had a path to the postseason.

"If we swept Oneonta and split with Plattsburgh we would have still gotten in," said Ciccarello. "We had all of the tie-breakers going our way."

Saturday brought the Oneonta Red Dragons to town, who were also competing for a berth in the playoffs. The Lady Knights regrouped from Friday, winning the opener 6-5 behind a solid outing from freshman pitcher Janine Montera, who struck out five in seven innings of work. Junior outfielder Nickie Steger went 3-4 and scored twice out of the leadoff spot for Geneseo, who also received multi-hit performances from Squairs and Kuhn.

Inclement weather forced the second game's postponement to Sunday - a blessing in disguise for Kuhn, who had thrown ten innings the day before and was slated to pitch again. Although Kuhn submitted a determined outing, Geneseo was relatively benign at the plate and lost 4-3 after a dramatic seventh-inning rally fell short.

The comeback attempt began when Newton, the Lady Knights' lone senior, blasted a two-run homer to cut a 4-0 lead in half. Geneseo scored one more run before the game ended on bases-loaded pop-up, dealing yet another blow to the Lady Knights' playoff hopes. Kuhn went the distance in the loss, allowing just two earned runs and striking out five.

The split with Oneonta meant that the Lady Knights would have to go on the road and sweep SUNYAC powerhouse Plattsburgh in order to keep their season alive. Heading into Monday, the Cardinals were allowing less than one run per contest in SUNYAC play, a stat that was unchanged after a dominant sweep which ended Geneseo's season.

The Lady Knights were unable to put together any semblance of offense against the Cardinals, losing 8-0 in the first game and 9-1 in their final game of the season.

Heading into next year, the Lady Knights have essentially the same team, losing only Newton to graduation.

"I will miss her hustle and determination," Ciccarello said of Newton. "She would do whatever was needed to make the play or get the hit to win. She leaves it all on the field. Her home run on Sunday vs. Oneonta was a huge lift to the team. That was her style, leadership by example."

Geneseo finished the year 10-12 in SUNYAC play and 13-19 overall.