Columbia Softball Shut Out in Home Opener
Cougar girls struggle on the field, at the plate, in the circle.
The Columbia softball team's home opener at Frank Zuzori Field in Meadowland Park this afternoon could not have gone worse for the Cougars. In their first game ever played at the new field, the Cougar girls struggled in all phases of the game, losing a 15-0 mercy rule to Montclair.
"I think it was a lack of concentration and focus. We came into the game very loose," said Columbia senior Ngozi Ike.
In five innings, Columbia managed just two hits, struck out 10 times, made four errors, walked nine batters and hit three others. The girls did not have more than one runner on base at any time during the game. Top-to-bottom, it was not a great game for the Cougars, who fell to 0-2.
Things fell apart in the top half of the second inning, when back-to-back errors on third baseman Julia LesterTaylor put runners on first and second with no outs. Columbia pitcher Lizzy Kling walked two of the next three batters, forcing in a run. Montclair's Sarah Papley slapped a two-run single up the middle, followed by a two-run triple, which put the Mounties up 5-0.
In the same inning, Juliana Freda knocked in two runs with a shallow double to centerfield, which got by Columbia co-captain Megan Mathews. The Mounties scored seven runs on three hits, four walks and three errors in the frame, while Kling threw 40 pitches in the inning.
"Defense is our strong point and when we don't play defense, that's when it's going to kill us," Mathews said. "Hitting we can still get better at, but fielding is what we need."
In the top of the fourth, Montclair blew the game even wider open, tacking on five runs, headlined by a two-run double down the leftfield line from Hannah Wurgaft. Once again, it was walks and errors that killed the Cougars in the fourth, with Montclair scoring five runs on just three hits in the frame. Wurgaft drove in two more runs in the final inning, finishing with six RBI in the game.
"To me it was hard, because I know when she needed it the most, I let two balls go by me, and for a pitcher, I know how hard that is," Mathews said. "For her to throw strike after strike, I feel like it just gets harder when her defense behind her isn't [making plays]."
If you stripped away the errors, hit batsmen and walks, the Mounties hammered out eight hits, certainly enough to win, but definitely not enough for 15 runs. There were 16 base runners for Montclair that reached base without a hit.
Montclair's pitcher Claire Fitzgerald pitched well against the Cougars, fanning 10 through five innings, surrendering two hits and two walks. She did not face much trouble, with Kyrsten Van Natta picking up the only extra base hit and being the only Columbia runner to reach third base.
"We need to work on hitting. That's our biggest weakness," Ike said. "That's number one what we need to work on."
The Cougars visit Millburn on Wednesday at 4 p.m. for their third game of the season.