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.
The Pirates softball team split their doubleheader on Saturday versus Creighton, closing out the second of two with a 9-7 Pirates win. A pair of solo home runs helped the Pirates stake claim to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. With two down, Alexis Walkden sent her 13th of the year over the wall in left, and in the very next at-bat Sara Haefeli matched with a solo shot, her 13th of the season. From there, Danielle DeStaso was cruising on the mound, allowing just one hit and a pair of base runners through the first three innings before the Bluejays struck for three in the fourth. Creighton’s Liz Dike homered to deep center field to cut the SHU lead in half, then an inopportune-error with two outs prolonged the inning. Allie Reinhart hit a fly ball to left in foul territory, but Jackie DiPietro was unable to make a play. Given a second chance, Reinart sent a two-run shot to left center, giving the Bluejays a 3-2 lead. The Pirates grounded out five runs in the fifth, needing just three hits to do so, while sending 10 batters to the plate. After DeStaso drew a bases loaded walk to score Yasmin Harrel from third and tie the game, DiPietro hit a two-RBI single into right to put the Pirates back on top. The lead would not hold. Dike struck again for Creighton, this time hitting a grand slam out to left for her 10th home run of the season. That was the end of the day for DeStaso, as Lauren Fischer came in to close out the inning, neutralizing the Bluejay attack. After giving up a hit to the first batter she faced, she retired eight of the final 10 she faced, yielding just two hits and a walk in 2.2 innings of work. Walkden’s game-winning home run in the top of the sixth came under some strange circumstances. Creighton pitcher Micaela Whitney had hit Whitney Jones to lead off the inning, then threw three-straight balls to Walkden, prompting Creighton to enter Sydnee Eck mid at-bat. Eck proceeded to serve one right down the middle for Walkden, and she made them pay with a liner out to left center, her second of the game. With Fischer in a groove on the mound, this time the two-run cushion was enough, as she improved to 7-8 with the win. Harrell recorded a base hit in both games to extend her hitting streak to nine in a row. In addition to her solo home run, Haefeli also drew two walks, scoring twice, DiPietro went 2-for-4 with the big RBI single in the fifth, and freshman Alyssa Prukop came up with a pinch hit RBI single as well. In game one of the softball double-header Seton Hall (16-10, 5-5) was hurt by a big fifth-inning rally. After seeing a 2-0 lead slip away in the bottom of the third, SHU yielded four runs on five hits in the fifth as the Bluejays (17-11, 3-6) took a 6-2 lead. In the top of the second, a couple of walks gave the Pirates runners at first and second with two outs for Jones, who singled into left center to score Sara Foster and give SHU a 1-0 lead. Haefeli led off the top of the third and proceeded to tack on an additional run to the SHU lead, sending a solo home run on a line over the wall in left center. After that the Hall found trouble. SHU starter DeStaso walked the bases loaded in the bottom of the third, leading to a relief appearance from Casey Moses. A hit batter and groundout to second brought two runs home, resulting in a 2-2 tie heading into the fourth. While Creighton pitcher Micaela Whitney went through a stretch of retiring seven straight batters for Creighton, the Bluejay bats started to heat up. CU strung together five hits in the bottom of the fifth, including a stretch of four in a row that started with back-to-back doubles. The Bluejays took their first lead, 3-2, as Allie Reinhart doubled in Jen Daro, and scored thanks to a two-base hit to the gap in left center from Anna O'Gorman.Lauren Fischer came in to relieve Moses and was able to retire Liz Dike and Daro to put an end to Creighton's big inning. Seton Hall would pull within three as Joelle Arrante doubled to center field, scoring Jackie DiPietro in the top of the sixth, but that was all the offense they could generate down the stretch. Moses fell to 2-3 with the loss, while Whitney allowed two earned runs in 5.2 innings to improve to 9-6. Reinhart went 3-for-3 with two RBI, two runs scored and two doubles to pace the Creighton offense. The Pirates are back in action to finish off the three game series with Creighton tomorrow at 12 p.m. in Omaha, Nebraska. [subscribe-by-email-form]
Sara Haefeli possessed what it took defensively to be the starting center fielder for the Seton Hall softball team last year. The problems lied at the plate. Haefeli’s junior season was her first as a scholarship player for the Pirates, and it was tough one offensively. The right-hander hit just .212 at the dish. But, Haefeli has been The Hall’s most improved player in the 2015 campaign thus far. The senior is hitting .313 and is second on the team with a .717 slugging percentage. She has hammered 11 home runs, which is second in the Big East, making her a player of the year candidate in the league. Haefeli is satisfied with her progress, and the keys to her success are no secret. Q: What has been the key to transitioning from a tough junior year to what has been an outstanding senior season? A: “Sheer determination. I have the mindset that a pitcher can’t beat me when I step up to the plate. Last year, I’ll admit, mentally I was not completely right. But I’ve put it behind me. I came to an epiphany that if I play my game, good things are going to happen. I’m just trying to do me, to be Sara Haefeli” Q: Do you feel like you can hit just about anything right now? A: “Absolutely. It’s about having a little bit of an edge. I’ve tried to have some more cockiness at the plate. Yes, I always want to stay humble. But there’s something about being aggressive too. Our senior class has tried to create more of that culture this season.” Q: What makes you think this team can do something special in the postseason? A: “We know we only reached 14 wins last season. That was hard to swallow, but what makes me think that this season is special is that this team meshes both on and off the field. It all comes down to focus. We have to mentally have the will to win. This team has that type of an edge this season. There’s more of a toughness in place.” Q: What has Coach Smith done for you as a player throughout your time at Seton Hall? A: “She’s set a foundation for this program and she’s focused on doing the little things in order to win. One thing that Coach (Smith) has established that was not in place with the program before she got here is that we pick each other up. It may seem so little, but she’s created a culture. Every player realizes that there’s a lot more going on than what they do individually in a game. The other thing that Coach (Smith) has done is she believes in me. She respects me. And that’s made me want to play really hard for her. I think my fellow teammates can agree. She lights a fire under us. That’s made me a better player.” Q: How can you be a legitimate postseason contender? A: “Yogi Berra said it, “The game is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical.” We have to be ready mentally to win games. If we don’t do that, we’re not going to have success. It’s as simple as that. And it starts this weekend.” At 4-4 and in third in the Big East entering a crucial road weekend in league play, the Pirates will take on the Creighton Bluejays, losers of three in a row, this weekend in Omaha, Neb. Go to thesetonian.com for complete updates on The Hall as the blue and white are in pursuit of a postseason berth.