By Michael Noble and Jocelyn Martinez
The Palm Beach Atlantic University softball team opened the season winning a double-header against Northwood University’s Seahawks on Wednesday.
The Sailfish dominated the contest, coming away with a run-ruled 9-0 win in the first game and a tighter 5-4 win in the second.
Starting pitcher and captain Ashley Jones delivered a sizzling 11 strikeouts in the first game. Northwood could barely keep up with only one hit.
The Sailfish tore up the field with an incredible total of eight runs batted in (RBIs) that made for a daunting lead for the Seahawks to overcome.
Half of these points were made due to the superior swings of shortstop Mari Stokes, followed by Brittany Schneider with two RBIs.
Coach Kimmy Bloemers said, “The girls work extremely hard and put in a great effort.”
Bloemers said she feels the softball team needs to keep working this hard to maintain morale and keep this season a winning one.
Bloemers had plenty of confidence for a win in game two and her optimism was well placed when the team hit a 5-4 win after an epic battle in inning seven.
The team again began to put dramatic points on the board with two runs both in innings one and two.
But this time the Seahawks answered the Sailfish with a run on the scoreboard at the top of the third.
Then, at the bottom of the fourth inning, something unexpected occurred: a bat flew into Northwood’s dugout.
As a few players ran out to escape the winged assailant, one spectator laughed and commented on how ironic it was that there was “a bat on the field.”
After the commotion, the Seahawks hit a triple in the top of the seventh, bringing the score to a tie game of 4-4.
In the bottom of the seventh inning however, Miranda Welch nailed a single to drive in another RBI and finish the game with a 5-4 win.
“I’m keeping positive,” Bloemers said. “The team as a whole is the strong point we possess. One position is no better than the other, because truly we have become one.”
Next the Sailfish will travel to Pensacola for the West Florida Tournament, Feb. 12-14.
Last season the Sailfish took home the national championship for the National Christian College Athletic Association.
“We are expecting to win it again,” Captain Christine Donovan said. “But our main goal is to make it to the NCAA Regionals.”
Even with last year’s record of 33-22, the team aims to do better this upcoming season.
Statistically, the entire team performed very well last season. Three of the players were named to the Independent Collegiate Athletic Association first and second teams.
This year they gained five additional players to the team, and lost only one senior from last season.
The roster last year consisted of only 13 players, and although the team is still small this year with 15 women, the new additions will make a difference.
With these new players, the team has many options and possible line-ups they hope will aid in a successful performance.
“Our schedule is going to be a lot tougher this season but we are up to the challenge,” Donovan said. “Everyone is really fired up and ready to play. We have been working really hard for the past six months.”
New assistant coach Ron Kotouch has been conditioning the girls hard and motivating them.
Bloemers is putting a lot of emphasis on what the team lacked the previous year to really perfect their game.
Although they lacked offense last year, their defense has always been solid. In returning captains Ashley Jones and Chelsea Gravini, the girls have strong leaders to help the team continue aiming for the goal they want to achieve.
“Everyone has stepped it up at the plate and looks really good,” Donovan said.
In the fall pre-season the team went 6-0, which the Sailfish are hoping will set the tone for the regular season.
With Wednesday’s back-to-back wins, they look ready to meet or even surpass last year’s success.