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.