Stepnowski Leads Softball to Double-Header Sweep of NYU

By Luke Shannon | Sports Editor

Scranton entered the day 1-1, missing several key players with the stomach bug. Its offense had only produced five runs in those first two games.

Twenty-two runs later, huge performances from many on that same offense powered the Royals back into the win column.

Sophomore Sarah Stepnowski was among the biggest contributors again Sunday, driving in five runs and crossing the plate five times herself in a monster day. The first baseman is off to a scorching start to the season, with a .727/.786/1.364 batting average/ on base percentage/ slugging percentage triple slash line through four games.

“Playing this weekend and being able to put all our hard work into action was like a breath of fresh air,” Stepnowski said. “But even more importantly, we had a ton of fun together. We perform better because we love what we do, and it creates an environment we all want to be a part of.”

Part of that environment, Stepnowski said, is the senior leadership that she and her teammates have grown accustomed to. Stepnowski mentioned Heather Alich as one senior who has led by example, which includes getting her hundredth hit as a Royal this weekend.

“Every girl had a smile on their face and bright red faces from cheering for her well-deserved accomplishment,” Stepnowski said. “And even after all of that, nothing beats the huge smile from Alich on second base. She only did what we all believed she could and that goes for every teammate.”

All this was without the team at full strength. The softball team was not exempt from the stomach bug that swept through campus last week, and some of their regulars were hobbled or out.

However, Stepnowski said she never lost confidence that her team would pull through.

“It was unfortunate to not have the entire team with us, but the support was always there,” Stepnowski said. “Every girl has their strengths to help the team and that’s exactly what happened this weekend”

Last year, Scranton lost the third game of a best-of-three Landmark Conference Championship series to no. 1 seeded Moravian in heartbreaking, 9-8, fashion. Their goal this year is to make it back to that stage and come out on top this time. If Stepnowski’s words are any indication, they are not shy of the moment. She said that the obstacles in the season so far have only strengthened the resolve of her team.

“It is only the start of the season, but the chemistry is unmatched… It might not have been exactly what we were expecting but adapting…makes us stronger. We have talent, but more importantly we have dedication and some of the hardest working girls I have ever played with,” Stepnowski said. “We win as a family; we lose as a family, and we always attack the next game together.”

This family mentality has allowed for a culture of accountability already this season. Players are not afraid to hold others or themselves accountable and rely on others to do the same.

One example of this came after the double-header, when a stomach bug-plagued Lauren Cawlie lamented her inability to get to a ball in the outfield. Despite the wins and a solid day at the plate, despite the stomach bug, Cawlie was still demanding more from herself and refusing to make excuses.

This carried a similar tone as another Stepnowski quote.

“I can say with no hesitation that every girl on this team will leave it all on the field, and there is nothing more you can ask of a team,” Stepnowski said.

With this level of dedication, it will be fun to see how far this ‘family’ will go.