Buffalo State blanks Bears, sweeps weekend


Dave DeLuca/The Record

Senior Joanna Bardak high-fives assistant coach Greg Willats after hitting a go-ahead home from against Plattsburgh

Anthony Reyes, Associate Sports Editor

The temperature this weekend barely hovered above the freezing mark, but that wouldn’t slow down the Buffalo State softball team. They created their own heat; their bats were on fire.

The Bengals finally opened their SUNYAC schedule this weekend after snow and cold temperatures forced them to postpone their first few SUNYAC contests. They played a doubleheader Friday against Plattsburgh and a doubleheader Saturday against Potsdam. They swept all four games to start their SUNYAC schedule a perfect 4-0.

“Oh, it was great,” head coach Marie Curran said. “Because we couldn’t practice anymore, it was just getting too old.”

Early Saturday morning, the Bengals got out to a hot start, scoring at least one run in each of the first four innings to head to the bottom of the fourth inning with an 8-2 lead. In the bottom of the fourth, Potsdam began to push back. They tacked on four runs of their own and cut the Bengal lead to 8-6. Both teams went through the fifth inning scoreless, but the Bengals busted it wide open again with a five-run sixth inning to take a 13-6 lead.

Potsdam was able to add another run, but ultimately fell short and lost by a score of 13-7 in game one.

Game two started with more of the same. The Bengals got out to another hot start, scoring 10 runs in the first three innings to head into the fourth inning with a 10-0 lead. Both teams went scoreless in the fourth inning, but the Bengals tacked on two more runs in the fifth to take a 12-0 lead. The Bears couldn’t muster a comeback and the game was final after just five innings.

Senior outfielder Joanna Bardak was the spark plug of the Bengals offense in game one. She went 4-for-4 with two doubles, a triple, two stolen bases, three runs scored and an RBI. Junior outfielder Jean Stahl was 3-for-5 with a double and two RBIs and junior infielder Stephanie Novo finished 2-for-5 with three RBIs.

In game two, senior catcher Kate Brownell led the Buffalo State offense, going 3-for-3 with two doubles, a triple, four RBIs and three runs scored. In the two games, the Bengals accrued 29 hits, 13 of which were for extra bases, and 25 runs. It wasn’t all about the offense, though. Sophomore pitcher Alison Novak tossed three 1/3 innings in relief of Maddie Coneys and allowed only two hits and one unearned run. In game two, junior pitcher Alexis Haley tossed a complete game, a two-hit shutout.

On Friday, the Bengals battled Plattsburgh for their other two victories. They won the first game by a score of 5-3 in eight innings. Bardak had a game-winning two-run homerun in the top of the eighth, and Coneys fired eight strong innings. In game two, the Bengals were led by Novo at the plate. She went 3-for-4 with one run and one RBI. Haley was strong on the mound as well, tossing the first of her two complete-game shutouts of the weekend.

Curran, who was happy to earn the two wins Friday, still wasn’t pleased with the way the offense performed, but she loved what she saw on Saturday.

“Very good,” Curran said when asked about how she felt the offense did. “All the work they put in, the extra effort they put in in pregame batting paid off. The kids did a great job focusing. We talked to them a lot about offense and that we weren’t performing, and that we needed to step up, so that was good.”

With four victories, there was a lot of praise to go around for the whole team, but Curran felt that there were a few players that did an exceptional job in particular.

Bardak had a strong weekend, going 9 for 14 with four RBIs, six runs scored and two stolen bases.

“She (Bardak) has been working really hard,” Curran said. “Because it was very frustrating with Florida, she wasn’t excited at all with her performance and worked real hard this week and I’m glad it paid off for her. That’s the kid we know.”

Her great offensive performance over the weekend was highlighted by a clutch homerun in the extra innings of game one versus Plattsburgh to give the Bengals the win.

“I mean honestly, I just kind of knew,” Bardak said when asked of her thoughts when the ball came off the bat. “It was right down the middle, and as soon as I hit it I just knew, and I was so excited.”

Bardak’s performance earned her SUNYAC Softball Player of the Week and Buffalo State Athlete of the Week honors. The same two awards that her teammate, Stahl, won last week.

Stahl, who had a strong offensive showing in Florida, which earned her the starting center field job, also had a strong weekend at the plate for the Bengals with four RBIs and three stolen bases.

“I didn’t really play my first two years, so just getting that chance made me really want to try a lot harder than everyone else,” Stahl said. “It’s great, it feels really good, I’m really happy to be out there.”

Curran praised Stahl for her determination.

“What she’s done over the last two years, sitting and learning and developing and just really her perseverance to prove to us to play has been amazing and it’s all paying off,” Curran said. “Everything she’s done in her work and being a great teammate is really why she’s able to go and do what she’s doing for us this year; it’s quite exciting.”

Curran was also pleased with the team’s pitching performance.

“She’s (Haley) good, she’s fun, it’s enjoyable to watch her, and she’s feisty,” Curran said. “You know on the mound she’s going to go get after it and rise to the occasion.”

Coneys also had a successful weekend pitching. She had surgery to repair a torn labrum in her hip during the offseason, and she pitched her first complete game on Friday since the injury. She also pitched another four innings on Saturday.

“It felt awesome,” Coneys said. “We honestly didn’t think I would be back this quick, and be able to throw this much, so to be able to throw eight yesterday and still pitch today is a great feeling.”

Curran was happy to see her bounce back.

”That was phenomenal, for her to be that comfortable,” Curran said. “And if the temperature hadn’t continued to drop, she would have lasted longer, she just got cold and tight.”

After the weekend, the Bengals joined Fredonia as the only other remaining unbeaten team during SUNYAC play, something Stahl believes is a testament to their offense.

“We’re definitely an offensive team on the strong point for sure,” Stahl said. “And we all love each other and we all pick each other up so once we go, we’re going, and we’re not stopping.”

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