Lipinski's bat keeps softball playoff hopes alive

Category:  Sports
Wednesday, April 24th, 2019 at 10:09 PM
Lipinski's bat keeps softball playoff hopes alive by Chris Rosato Jr.
Photo: Ben McCullough

Roni Lipinski saw five pitches in Wednesday’s game two, five-inning victory to complete the sweep over visiting Mercyhurst.

The Edinboro catcher drove the very first pitch she saw over the left-field fence for her first career grand slam, giving Edinboro a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning.

“I was actually thinking I wasn’t going to swing at a change-up,” Lipinski recalled. “But then they threw me a change-up and it was right down the middle, so I just went and got it. That’s my pitch right there.”

Edinboro added a fifth run in the second on a first-and-third play, with Lauren Gierlak purposefully getting caught in a rundown between first and second base, allowing Brittany Allen to head home.

The Fighting Scots were then held silent until the bottom of the fourth inning, when Olivia Jankowski stepped to the plate with Gierlak on first base and two outs. Jankowski, who had been hit by Mercyhurst starting pitcher Laura Gregory in both of her previous two plate appearances, extended her hitting streak to 21 games with a two-run home run that bent behind the fair pole in left field.

Allen followed that up with a single, but was caught stealing with Lipinski at the plate, bringing the catcher up to start the bottom of the fifth.

Mercyhurst tried to change things up, sending Josey Moorhead to relieve Gregory at this time.

“Well the new pitcher that came in,” Lipinski began on the change, “I was watching her before I was hitting and it just kind of looked similar to what we hit in practice, and that was right in my wheelhouse so I just went for it.”

She didn’t miss.

Lipinski sent the fifth pitch she’d seen in the game — her first of the at-bat — over the left field fence once more, giving the Fighting Scots an 8-0 lead. Games can end when a team leads by eight runs after four-and-a-half innings, so Lipinski’s home run walked off the nightcap.

“I’m on top of the world,” she said. “That’s the best game I’ve ever played, honestly...A walk-off and a grand slam in the same game is crazy.”

Lipinski’s heroics followed a 7-4 victory for the Scots in the first game. She knocked in the first two runs there, with a base hit in the first inning.

Edinboro would rack up a 6-0 lead heading into the fifth inning, but Amanda Metz surrendered her first runs of the game on a solo home run to start the fifth. The Lakers added a three-run home run to make it 6-4.

Edinboro added an insurance run in the sixth to produce the final tally. Metz improved her record to 4-9, striking out six batters through five innings of work.

“Amanda has come in and done a great job,” Head Softball Coach Dan Gierlak said. “Amanda is not normally a strikeout pitcher, but she changes her speeds and changes eye level great. And when she does that, watch out.”

On Thursday, Edinboro trailed for most of game one of their home doubleheader against Slippery Rock, but put together six runs in the last two innings to tie the game, 9-9, forcing extras.

Carley Nasca, who came on to relieve Metz in the middle of the sixth, shut Slippery Rock down in the eighth to send her offense back to the plate.

It wouldn’t take long for Lipinski to repeat her heroics, blasting a one-out solo home run to left field to walk things off for the second straight game. Lipinski was named the PSAC West Softball Athlete of the Week Monday for her performances in the two doubleheaders.

In game two, Nasca went the distance, recording a three-hit shutout of The Rock to help her team to its eighth PSAC West victory of the season. She improved to 13-6 on the year and lowered her ERA to 2.69. She was rewarded with PSAC West Softball Pitcher of the Week honors Monday, completing Edinboro’s sweep of the weekly conference awards for the second time this season.

Slippery Rock starter Chloe Sharman also had a shutout going until the sixth inning, when Edinboro scored all five of its runs.

The scoring started with Jankowski extending her hitting streak to 23 games with a leadoff solo home run. Jankowski said after the game that she doesn’t pay attention to her stats during the season.

“I’m really not taking anything too, too serious,” she said. “I’m having fun while I’m up there and just doing what I need to do to help our team.”

After a pair of singles, Allen then singled up the middle to score Shannon Gilbert and give the Fighting Scots a 2-0 lead.

A wild pitch then put runners on second and third, and Jessica Little cleared the bases with a one-out double to make it 4-0. Little came around to score when Heh reached on an error by the left fielder.

Jankowski said the offensive outbursts over the two days was a positive sign heading into the final week of the regular season.

“It’s a great feeling,” she said. “I feel very confident in where we’re heading now. We’ve had a couple ups and downs, but I think we’ve figured out where we need to be.”

Edinboro’s record improved to 17-15 overall and 8-6 in the PSAC West. The wins moved them up to third place in the division. The top three teams from each division at the end of the season advance to the PSAC Tournament.

It didn’t take long for Jankowski to name what she’s looking forward to in their final games.

“More sweeps,” she said. “A lot more sweeps. A lot of cheering.”

Christopher Rosato Jr. | sports.spectator@gmail.com

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