The Montclair State University softball team had a strong opening to their season, but they’ve recently stumbled against New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) opponents. Since starting conference play, the Red Hawks have dropped six of their eight games.
Despite their string of conference losses, the Red Hawks put their NJAC woes behind them when they hosted New Jersey City University (NJCU) on April 13. Montclair State’s hitting was in full force as they drove in six runs in the first inning. Freshman right fielder Ali Walek, sophomore catcher Tina Ciacciarelli and freshman first baseman Sam DiClementi contributed three consecutive singles, leading to 4 RBIs, to give the Red Hawks a 6-0 lead.
Montclair State opened their game against NJCU with sophomore pitcher Sam Keating, deviating from their usual strategy of starting senior pitcher Brooke Powers. Keating thrived in her new slot as she pitched a two-hit shutout in the Red Hawks’ 14-0 victory.
“We were in a spot where we were kind of down in the dumps,” Keating said. “It was really great to come out and put up runs, like we know how to put up runs. Our team has very good hitters, and I just do my job pitching, and they do their job with the bats, and we win games.”
The Red Hawks trailed 6-0 heading into the bottom of the third inning in their second game of the doubleheader against the Gothic Knights. Montclair State fought back and scored three consecutive runs on the heels of aggressive base running. With two outs in the bottom of the third inning, Walek hit a three-run triple to tie the game. The Red Hawks’ offense consistently provided runs, and they eventually emerged with a 12-8 win.
“We’re back to playing how we used to play,” said freshman shortstop Victoria Gehring. “We were playing a little scared at first, but now we’re coming back, and we’re actually playing like we should.”
The Red Hawks are currently in eighth place in the conference, with just under three weeks left in the regular season. Montclair State is two games out of a playoff position, and they’ll have an opportunity to make a playoff push, as five of their last six games are against NJAC opponents.
The softball team will return to the field on April 16 at Rutgers-Camden. The doubleheader games will take place at noon and 1:30 p.m.