STEUBENVILLE, Ohio- Franciscan University softball was defeated by Penn State-Altoona 16-0 and 11-1 in their home double header. Although some players were able to step up, the team as a whole could not maintain enough mental stamina for a win.
The first game started out competitive, with FUS only letting in three runs going into the fourth inning. Freshman Eloise Rover pitched, allowing only one walk throughout the entire game. Things went south in the top of the fourth inning when the Lady Lions hit two homeruns with multiple runners on base. With another two-run homerun in the fifth, fielding errors and Franciscan still struggling at the plate, the Lady Lions took complete control of the game and finished with 16 runs.
"The first game was uninspiring," head coach Jen Parker said. "We were letting a lot of runs in off passed balls and we can't keep doing that."
The second game played out similarly, with freshman Molly Clarahan pitching for Franciscan. FUS held the Lady Lions at a modest score of 4-0 until the end of the fourth inning. Freshman Hailey Wesselman ended the shutout in the bottom of the fourth with a line-drive homerun over the centerfield fence, giving the Lady Barons their first run of the day. Unfortunately, the run stood alone as the Lady Lions had an impressive fifth inning, scoring seven runs and sealing Franciscan's fate with another loss.
FUS was able to hold Penn St.-Altoona from any major scoring innings until halfway through each game where they seemed to lose their composure.
"That's our problem," Parker said. "Partway through the game we tend to lose our competitive edge. We are better conditioned than how we played. I think a lot of it comes down to mental fatigue and not physical fatigue. Once we can overcome that mental fatigue and those physical issues, we will be alright."
Franciscan was not only battling their mental blocks but injuries as well. Starting catcher, sophomore Mallori Linscomb, was out with an injury, leaving freshman Shannon Summers to fill her shoes. To make things even harder senior captain and center fielder Amanda Ruwart was injured during the first game. Ruwart was out for the rest of the double header, leaving FUS to shuffle positions last minute.
To help fight through the building adversity, the Lady Barons have been focusing on a weekly virtue. Parker said that their current focus focal point has been particularly relevant.
"This week's virtue is accountability," Parker said. "It's actually been really good because they have been holding each other accountable as a team. I think it's been really applicable this week to what we have been dealing with."
Although working through injuries and difficulties is challenging, freshman Hailey Wesselman and junior Rosemary Cassidy have stood out for the Lady Barons.
At third base, Wesselman was a crucial player in the double header for more reasons than her homerun.
"Hayley is definitely stepping up her game each time she steps on the field and that's really good," Parker said. "She played a great game. She had a lot of great plays in the field, a nice homerun, and a couple of hits. We need that from everybody."
Cassidy is another indispensable player on Franciscan's roster. Leading off the FUS lineup and playing at both her usual position of left field and stepping in at center, Cassidy helped the team's effort to recover from Ruwart's injury.
"Rosie is consistently strong," Parker said. "She is one of those utility players that it doesn't matter where I need her, she goes. She has definitely got a servant's heart when it comes to playing softball."
Looking ahead, Parker is eager to see the team pull together and play in sync.
"I am really hoping that this will be a turning point for us tomorrow," Parker said. "I know when you are playing with injuries and you are losing some of your starting players it can be difficult but we just need to move forward and focus on what we can do."
The Lady Barons will have their opportunity to succeed on Saturday with a home double header against D'Youville College at 1 and 3 pm.