The Manhattan Jaspers had not lost a softball game at home in nearly a month, and that streak was almost extended today.
But the Columbia Lions had different plans.
After falling to the Jaspers 5-1 in the first game of a doubleheader, the Lions rebounded and defeated the Jaspers 3-1 in the second game to put an end to Manhattan’s nine-game home winning streak.
“We definitely could’ve taken two from that team and probably should have,” Amy Bright, Manhattan’s game one starter said. “But, you know, you win some, you lose some.”
Led by Bright in the first game and Briana Matazinsky in the second game, the Jaspers received two stellar pitching performances in the non-conference games against the Lions.
Bright tossed a complete game, giving up one run on four hits and no walks.
Matazinsky, while not as dominant as Bright, still pitched six innings, and also gave up one earned run on four hits and no walks.
However, the difference in both games, was that Bright was backed up by timely hitting and Matazinsky was not.
In game one, the Jaspers used a three-run second inning to take the lead for good.
With runners on second and third, Stephanie Reinhardt singled to drive in a run.
Then, the Jaspers collected two more runs on a pair of two-out hits from Andi Stallard and Emily Carter.
Manhattan would tack on two more runs in the fifth when Mickayla Romero drove in the runners on second and third with a two-out double.
With the clutch hitting behind her, Bright delivered when called upon.
From the third to the sixth inning, she retired 12 hitters in a row, but things got dicey in the seventh when the Lions brought the tying run to the plate.
However, Columbia left the bases loaded and a pop up to first base sealed the 5-1 win for Manhattan.
“I felt really good,” Bright said about her performance. “Actually, I was struggling a little bit with certain pitches and my changeup was working really well, so thankfully they were not swinging at that. I kind of stuck with that most of the game and I did really well, so I was real happy about that.”
The story of the second game was much different offensively for Manhattan.
The clutch hits the team got in the first game were absent from the second, leading Matazinsky to pitch with no run support.
Through five innings, Matazinsky retired 14 of the 15 batters she faced, but the Jaspers led only 1-0 and had already left seven runners on base.
The missed opportunities to add runs on the board came back to haunt the Jaspers in the top of the sixth inning, when the Lions scored two runs to take the lead.
The inning was plagued by gaffes, as both runs were unearned, thanks to a throwing error by Victoria Ross to start the inning.
Columbia’s Liz Caggiano made it runners on first and second, when she reached on a drag bunt.
Then came a questionable decision.
After the runners advanced to second and third on a sacrifice bunt, Manhattan had the opportunity to walk the leadoff hitter, Alix Cook, to load the bases with one out and look for the double play or the force out at any base.
However, the Jaspers decided to bring the infield in instead.
For Manhattan’s assistant coach Bridget Hurlman, not walking the batter to have the bases loaded was a move the coaches all felt confident making.
“We definitely felt like we had a good matchup,” Hurlman said. “So we were kind of going to go after it. We were confident in our pitching staff to get the job done.”
The move nearly paid off, as Cook delivered a hard hit grounder to second base, but Amanda Paxson bobbled it and had to throw to first base instead of throwing home. A run came in to score, which tied the game.
A batter later, the lead run was scored on a two-out double.
“We got an error, but it happens,” Matazinsky said about the nightmarish sixth inning. “It’s just an inning that kind of threw us off and we just didn’t make the play that we needed to make. It happens.”
The Lions added an insurance run in the seventh, but it was just that, insurance, as Manhattan failed to score again.
The Jaspers had their top slugger, MAAC Player of the Year candidate, Elena Bowman up at bat as the tying run in the bottom of the seventh, but she grounded out to third base to end the game and clinch Columbia’s 3-1 win.
“I think we definitely came out and got great pitching for both games,” Hurlman said. “I think we got some timely hits in the first game and not so much in the second game, so I think just the timing of the hitting in the second game, if we had done a little bit better, we would have been on top.”
The Jaspers, at 13-9 and 4-0 in the MAAC, return to action on Saturday for a doubleheader against the Rider Broncs.
“We’re ready to go,” Hurlman said. “I think we’re definitely staying hungry and looking for some more MAAC wins this weekend.”