PREVIEW: Softball heads to Green Bay for first conference road trip

Softball+travels+to+Green+Bay.+Photo+Credit%3A+Tyler+Gallo

Softball travels to Green Bay. Photo Credit: Tyler Gallo

By Austin Bechtold, Contributor

Green Bay, Wis.– After splitting their first conference matchup against Detroit Mercy, Robert Morris softball hits the road for the first time in conference play to face Green Bay for back-to-back doubleheaders on March 20 and 21.

The two teams last met in their only prior matchup just over 13 years ago on March 15, 2008, with the Colonials (7-5, 2-2) defeating the Phoenix (7-5, 2-2) 3-2 in Kissimmee, Florida. Originally scheduled to begin on Friday, the four games in two days will begin Saturday at 1 p.m. followed by game two at 3:30 p.m., with action beginning Sunday at noon and resuming at 2:30 p.m. due to inclement weather in the area.

Recapping Robert Morris

The Colonials split both ends of the doubleheader last weekend against Detroit Mercy, dropping the first game each day but rebounding to take game two on both occasions against the defending conference champions.

In Friday’s early game, Liz Murphy ended up victorious in a pitcher’s duel against RMU’s Dana Vatakis, with both pitchers competing through extras and all nine innings of action. Allison Smith hit a two-run homer in the top of the ninth to break a 1-1 tie, leading to a 3-1 Titans victory.

RMU reversed the script in game two, dominating the Titans to an 8-0 route and mercy rule Detroit Mercy, giving them no mercy as Madison Riggle pitched five strong innings while adding on to her run support with an RBI of her own. Natalie Higgins drove in three runs and Erika Bell helped plate two as well.

Saturday’s action was nearly a duplicate of the day prior, with Murphy and Vatakis once again dealing and Murphy securing the victory for Detroit Mercy in a 2-1 final. Game two was more favorable for Robert Morris as the bats came alive for a 5-3 victory with the help of three Titans errors.

Robert Morris will look to continue their second-game success, typically the most difficult game to win, and take at least three-of-four this weekend.

Scouting Green Bay

Green Bay won five of eight non-conference games before facing Northern Kentucky to begin Horizon League action last week.

The program split with Evansville, losing both games of a doubleheader then winning the next two, before splitting a two-game set with Butler and sweeping the same series total against Chattanooga with both series hosted by the Mocs.

The Phoenix’s series with the Norse was a dog-fight in all four matchups. After losing the first game 1-0, Green Bay returned the favor with a 1-0 victory in 10 innings over NKU thanks to a Bailey Schultz single.

Saturday’s games were similar to RMU’s, losing game one 3-2 and taking game two 4-3. Green Bay also needs to find some consistency to take three-of-four from RMU, with mistakes and off days also a natural part of the game.

Players to Watch

Natalie Higgins (RMU) – Starting every game this season, Higgins leads the Colonials with 15 RBI and 27 total bases on the young season. The grad student is hitting .419 and slugging .628. RMU’s top offensive threat will be the main Colonial to watch this weekend for the program to win the series.

Dana Vatakis (RMU) – Vatakis has been fantastic on the mound with a 2.43 ERA in six starts. Despite her success, the Colonials are 3-3 in games she has pitched in 2021. Her 40.1 innings by far lead the team, and the junior from Monessen, Pennsylvania needs to continue her fluent motion and the offense should eventually back her up.

Samantha Saloun (UWGB) – Saloun has been a breakout freshman performer for the Phoenix this season. She is hitting a team-high .300 in 30 at-bats and needs to continue her nice first season for Green Bay to win.

Brittany Baneck & Kayla Schwebke (UWGB) – Baneck and Schwebke have been fantastic on the mound for the Phoenix, with a 1.27 and 2.51 ERA, respectively, in 22 and 39 innings pitched. Look for another weekend full of at least two pitchers duels with the better fundamental team taking the series.

Prediction

Robert Morris will have a productive showing against their new conference opponent, taking three-of-four from the Phoenix in their first Horizon League road trip.

Game 1: 4-3 RMU

Game 2: 5-1 Green Bay

Game 3: 7-5 RMU

Game 4: 4-3 RMU