Bengals battle through big SUNYAC weekend


Dave DeLuca/The Record

Alexis Haley pitched 21 2/3 innings over the eight-game stretch, surrendering only six runs while striking out eight batters.

Anthony Reyes, Associate Sports Editor

The Buffalo State softball team got into the meat of their schedule this week, with eight games in five days, each with major playoff implications. It finished the eight-game stretch 4-4, which put a slight bend in their playoff chances, but didn’t break them.

The Bengals started off with a non-conference doubleheader Wednesday versus Penn State Behrend and earned the split, then headed into a full weekend of SUNYAC games. They took on New Paltz on Friday and earned the sweep, split with Oneonta on Saturday and earned the split and were then swept by Geneseo on Sunday.

“We have a doubleheader left, a lot of people have six and eight games left, so there is a lot of wiggle room all over the place,” head coach Marie Curran said about playoff seeding. “But I think we’re going to be okay. Beating New Paltz twice is huge, and the people who will finish around us haven’t played the tougher teams yet, so they have some big opponents this weekend, so that should help us too.”

Their full slate of games was highlighted by two big wins versus New Paltz on Friday, which was also Senior Day for the Bengals.

Buffalo State was ready to go from the start in game one, as they scored two runs in the first inning and another four in the third. They headed to the fifth inning with a 6-0 lead, when junior Stephanie Novo stepped to the plate and launched a home run over the left field fence to increase the lead to 8-0 and give the Bengals the win in five innings. Senior pitcher Maddie Coneys was solid on the mound, holding New Paltz to just one hit in five innings for her fourth win of the year.

In game two, roles were reversed, as New Paltz jumped out to an early 2-0 lead and extended their lead to 3-1 in the third inning. The Bengals bats seemed to cool down, until Novo stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the third and hit another blast over the left field fence to make it a 3-2 game. Buffalo State would tack on two more runs in the fourth inning to take a 4-3 lead, and would go on to win by that score.

Junior pitcher Alexis Haley, who entered the game after fellow junior pitcher Jordan Sarat took a hit off her knee, was lights out. She nailed down the win for the Bengals, pitching four 1/3 innings, allowing only two hits.

“It means so much,” Novo said when asked how much Senior Day sweep meant. “I play with my best friends and half of them are seniors, so we definitely wanted to do this for them and for all of us, it’s two big wins, it just means a lot and I’m glad I could help.”

Saturday versus Oneonta didn’t start the way the Bengals wanted it to, losing 9-1 in a five inning game. The lone bright spot was freshman Danielle Syzmkowiak blasting her first collegiate home run.

“It was nice, and I didn’t even know it actually,” Szymokowiak said. “I was just running and they told me to slow down and I was like ‘oh alright! Got to slow it down now.’”

But in game two, things turned around. Oneonta would get a run right out of the gate, taking a 1-0 lead after the first inning, but from there, everything would change.

The Bengals exploded for 10 runs in the bottom of the third inning. Novo kept her hot-hitting going, as she sent a bomb over the right field fence, a three-run home run, her seventh of the year, which capped off the 10-run inning that they had seven hit in and sent 13 batters to the plate. Haley was strong again in this one as she pitched five strong innings, allowing only three hits and one run. She also helped her own cause with a three RBI double in the 10-run inning.

“I like when I’m able to hit and help myself out a little,” Haley said. “It takes a little pressure off pitching.”

Curran was proud of her team’s ability to bounce back after a tough loss.

“We had told them we wanted them to go into the locker room and leave the bad stuff there,” Curran said. “Come out and it’s a new game, do what we have to do to get the split, because that was most important, and they came back refocused.”

If there’s one thing to be learned about this Bengals team, it’s that they never give up, they play until the final out. On Wednesday versus Penn State Behrend, the Bengals fell behind 3-0, but tied it at three just a half inning later, until the top of the seventh when they gave up two runs and earned the 5-3 loss. They came back in game two and scored three runs in the first inning and added two more in the third and earned a 5-2 win.

And on Sunday versus Geneseo, the Knights’ starting pitching cooled the Bengals bats down, but in both games they scored at least a run and had a chance to tie or take the lead in the bottom of the seventh. They ultimately couldn’t complete the comeback in either game, losing 4-2 in game one and 3-2 in game two, but they never gave up.

Novo and senior Taylor Swiatek led the Bengals offense over the eight-game stretch. Novo had 10 hits, including four home runs, nine RBIs and eight runs scored. Swiatek had 13 hits in the eight games and now has a hit in 20 consecutive games. She has the eighth highest batting average in the SUNYAC and was also named Buffalo State Athlete of the Week.

“I’ve worked very hard this year and in the offseason with weights and trying to be the best player I can be,” Swiatek said. “This is the first time I have gotten Athlete of the Week so it’s exciting.”

The Bengals will now head into their final week of the season before the playoffs begin. They will start out with a non-conference doubleheader Wednesday against the University of Rochester at home. They will then head to Fredonia for their final two SUNYAC games on Saturday, which could have major playoff implications, and finish out with another non-conference doubleheader when they travel to Ithaca on Sunday.


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