Coming off a 12-2 loss to Rutgers, the Pirates softball team will continue a seven-game home stand on Saturday, when they host St. John’s.
The Pirates (17-21, 6,5) enter the meeting with their Big East geographical rival after winning two of their last three conference-series. The Pirates took all three games versus Villanova at home on March 29 and 30. Then, took two out of three at Creighton on April 11 and 12.
St. John’s though enters undefeated in conference-play, 18-13 on the season. There’s no intimidation though for head coach Paige Smith ahead of the match-up.
“We play our best games against teams like that,” Smith said. “I’m excited.”
Smith would not tip her hand to who the starter would be to open the series on Saturday. One arm that will likely be considered is Danielle DeStaso. The senior pitcher went four innings, striking out two and allowing just one hit in a four-inning performance to pick up her eighth win of the season. The win was coupled with a pair of home runs as the senior pitcher went 3-for-3 behind the bat. The performance didn’t surprise Smith.
“That’s what (DeStaso) has been doing since she was ten years old,” Smith said. “She’s one of the premier hitters in the conference…When she’s on, she’s nearly impossible to hit.”
Smith also added that DeStaso has been coming through at the right time. That will extend to this weekend as the blue and white will take on a conference-best .314 batting average. Seton Hall is ranked fourth in the conference at .277. The Pirates though are second in slugging percentage in the conference at .471. Helping their cause in that category is a combination of the experienced and the freshman in the form of senior Sara Haefeli and freshman Alexis Walkden.
Haefeli is averaging .306 at the plate with 26 runs and 34 hits to go along with 13 homers on the season. Haefeli also boasts a .721 slugging percent, a major increase from last season.
“I’ve just been seeing the ball really well lately,” Haefeli said.
She also talked about the confidence she’s gotten in her role as a leader.
“Something about that makes you confident in yourself and know that your teammates sort of look up to you in a way,” she said.
Haefeli will face St. John’s for a final time this weekend and knows the importance of going head-to-head with an undefeated team.
“This is a huge series for us,” she said. “It’s just really important to go out there and play our best. When we do play our best, I think that we can be unstoppable.”
Walkden has been a welcomed-addition to the Pirates’ lineup this season, accounting for a team-leading 29 runs in 100 at-bats on the season. Her home run on Tuesday in a the team’s 12-2 loss to Rutgers, was the freshman’s 16th of the season. The Cibolo, Texas-native is eager for the opportunity to go against St. John’s for the first time in her collegiate career.
“We have every opportunity to beat this team,” Walkden said. “Even though they’re undefeated, I think it’ll make winning the game even sweeter.”
Walkden, too, has been hitting with authority in her rookie season. A .900 slugging percentage to be exact.
“Every time I go up to bat I know what pitch I want to see,” Walkden said. “Eventually, you either walk me or you have to throw a pitch in the zone that I can hit….”I’m just trying to be very disciplined when I go up to bat and swing at pitches I like to see.”
Smith was ‘disappointed’ after Tuesday’s 12-2 loss, the team lacked energy.
“I didn’t think we played with the energy we needed to,” Smith said. “I didn’t feel that typical Seton Hall softball energy.”
That energy will be needed against a tough conference-meeting.
The series with the Red Storm will begin Saturday, April 18 with a double-header starting at 12 p.m. The second game will begin at 2:30 p.m. The final game will be on Sunday, April 19 at 12:00 p.m.