Softball

Syracuse softball overcomes 4-run deficit with mid-game adjustments in win over N.C. State

An eventful first inning left Syracuse in a four-run hole and without its head coach.

Two North Carolina State singles and a pair of walks put the Orange down less than 15 minutes in. Head coach Mike Bosch was ejected in the first inning after arguing a close call at the plate. It all came right on the heels of SU losing by one run in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader after Cheyenne Balzer launched a go-ahead home run in the seventh inning.

But the Orange scored five unanswered runs in its comeback thanks to mid-game adjustments at the plate and in the field. Syracuse (22-18, 7-9 Atlantic Coast) fought all the way back from a four-run deficit in the first inning to beat NC State (20-25, 4-10), 5-4, in game 2 on Saturday at SU Softball Stadium.

The Orange banged out 10 hits in game 1 — twice as many as N.C. State — but only plated four in the loss. In game 2, SU again recorded 10 hits but only had five runs to show for it. The Orange left nine runners on base in game 2, and 16 between both games, but in the final six frames on the day, SU stranded only four.

“You can be anxious in the beginning of the game, you can be aggressive,” senior Corinne Ozanne said. “We kept our composure and that was kind of the turning point.”

With the exception of a fourth-inning rally, the Orange didn’t capitalize on scoring opportunities until Andrea Bombace’s walk-off single in the 10th inning. Before that, SU, Bombace especially, couldn’t get the timely hit.

The fourth was the only inning in which the Orange strung together more than two hits. This stemmed from SU assistant coach Alisa Goler’s decision to have Aliyah Wade pinch run at first base. The next batter grounded to Wolfpack second baseman Maggie Hawkins, who tried for the lead runner, Wade. The throw was rushed and sailed wide because of Wade’s speed. SU took advantage of two N.C. State errors and scored three runs.

“We wanted to give ourselves the chance to kind of get the ball rolling,” Goler said of subbing in Wade. “She’s just the one that got in there. And she did do a good job. She forced chaos on the bases.”

During that inning, Goler met with her base runners to help help keep the players focused. Goler called more of these mini-huddles than she or Bosch normally do. In addition to the team huddle between innings, Goler met with players several times during innings, including in the fourth, when the meetings helped SU score three runs.

“When you get kids on, sometimes they start to pressure,” SU assistant coach Kristyn Sandberg said. “I think we just needed to reassure to them that they were good hitters and capable of performing. Once they kind of relaxed a little bit and got in their competitive mode, they were able to have that clutch hit.”

The Orange transferred its mid-game composure at the plate onto the field. This was highlighted by an Alicia Hansen fielding clinic in the fourth inning. With the Orange still down 4-0, Hansen ranged to her right to cut off a grounder up the middle. A bad hop didn’t stop the freshman from centering it in her body and making an accurate throw to first base.

The next batter hit a fairly hard one-hopper to Hansen’s left. She laid out and, without getting up, made a backhand toss to Ozanne at first base for the out. The play earned Hansen hugs from right fielder Rachel Burkhardt and center fielder Sydney O’Hara, who both jugged in from their positions.

“They very easily could have just gone off after the first inning,” Sandberg said, “but we refocused them and they got back and they competed well.”

Shortstop Sammy Fernandez made a similarly difficult play on a ball to her right. She slid into the ball, backhanded it and stood to her feet before firing a strike to Ozanne’s chest. Syracuse could have faltered defensively after a long first inning, but it didn’t make an error in either contest.

AnnaMarie Gatti started the game in the circle and, although she didn’t pitch all 10 innings, earned her ninth win of the year. O’Hara relieved Gatti in the seventh, dealing three shutout innings. Then, in the top half of the 10th, Gatti came back to finish the game she started. She pitched with forcefulness, striking out the side.

“We just kept ballin’,” Bombace said. “We didn’t give up.”

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