Senior outfielder Rebecca Simms had a pair of singles during the double-header on Saturday vs SBU. | Photo by Anna Meassick
The euphoria of a walk-off home run to end a game is a feeling that not many players get to feel during a season or even a career. For Ari Castillo, she won’t have to worry about this instance of “FOMO.”
The freshmen third baseman hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning on Sunday afternoon to complete a wild comeback against St. Bonaventure University that was the highlight of the week for the women’s softball team. URI lost the other four games they played during that stretch.
On Sunday, Rhody trailed 9-2 entering the bottom of the fifth versus the Bonnies. Freshmen Alex Pleasic hit her first career home run in the bottom of the third inning to put two runs across the board, but the Bonnies were able to respond. A pair of doubles by McKenna Holtz and Alexandra Deal stretched the lead out to seven, but Coach Bridget Hurlman told her team to not think too far into the future.
“Just take one at-bat at a time to try to chip away and build something,” she said. “I think they really stuck to their plans and got it done.”
A big dent in the deficit came courtesy of the team-leader in home runs Susan Harrison. The freshmen catcher hit a grand slam over the left field wall to make it 9-6 before URI loaded the bases again in the inning. While they were able to get one run, no more followed.
That is until Castillo stepped up to the plate with the chance to win the game. She sent the first pitch over the outfield fence that gave the home team their first and only lead of the game. It was her first ever walk-off home run, a moment she described as “surreal” after the game. Coach Hurlman didn’t need to set the stage for her before the at-bat.
“Ari is a pretty self-driven person,” she said. “She’s got a pretty good swing, so most of the time it connects it goes pretty far.”
Sunday was the third and final game in the series vs the Bonnies. The two teams played a double-header on Saturday that was moved back twice because of rain in the morning.
Pitchers dominated the first contest as URI Senior Becca Rogers squared off against Junio Rylee Hehir. The two didn’t allow a runner on third until the bottom of the fifth inning where Rebecca Simms found herself standing only a base away from home. She scored to give Rhody the lead on a sacrifice fly from Erika Yeager.
The visitors were able to take a lead of their own in the next inning. Alexandra Piergustavo fought off a full count to hit a two-out single over the second baseman’s head that scored two runners. Pinch-runner Samantha Moll scored on a wild pitch in the next inning to add an insurance run to the scoreboard. It wasn’t vital in the end, as the Rams fell 3-1.
First pitch was underway 30 minutes later for game two of the series, but it took even less time before a run was scored. The road team went up 2-0 in the first inning courtesy of a sacrifice bunt by Brooke Kane-Walker and a fielder’s choice by Piergustavo. The small-ball strategy could be seen by the Bonnies throughout the weekend.
The lead was doubled in the third inning courtesy of an opposite strategy: the long ball. Kane-Walker added her second RBI of the day when she hit a homer to right center. Two batters later, Grace Perechinsky matched her teammate’s efforts with a solo shot of her own.
Rhody gained a run back in the bottom of the fourth when Harrison scored a single from Simms. More ground was made up in the next inning, again courtesy of the home run. Former Atlantic 10 Rookie-of-the-Week Faith Musselwhite launched a dinger to make it 4-2. Later in the inning, Castillo hit her first of the weekend, an act that also brought home Calleigh Holland. The score was even at four apiece.
In the seventh inning on Saturday, it was Saint Bonaventure who scored the winning run. Senior Alexandra Deal scored on a groundout to Castillo, who was playing shortstop in the game. That proved to be the last tally in the contest, as the Bonnies completed their doubleheader sweep with a 5-4 win.
Rhody returned to the diamond for a doubleheader against Holy Cross on Tuesday, and run support for the home team were scarce throughout the day. In the first game, Holy Cross starter Alexandra Held carried a perfect game into the seventh inning unil Musselwhite was able to reach on an error. The no-hitter was still alive until Erica Robles hit a double that drove in the freshmen. One run was not enough to win the game, as Rhody fell 6-1.
The Crusaders dominant pitching was apparent in the second game as well, winning 3-1. URI was only able to muster one run again, this time from a groundout by Harrison. Starter Julia Warasky pitched her first career game for the team in the contest, giving up only two earned runs on the day.
The Rams now stand at 14-22 on the season and 3-7 in conference play. They will travel to Saint Louis this weekend to take on the Billikens.