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Schoenewald ’17 powers softball to best start in six years

Chieffalo ’17, Orona ’18 turn in strong outings in Bears’ second straight winning weekend

Entering the weekend already pacing the softball team on offense, co-captain Julia Schoenewald ’17 did not slow down against Rutgers (6-12) — she was 2-3 with an RBI double. The Bears (7-3) also got a multi-hit game from outfielder Ashli Lotz ’19. But it wasn’t enough, as Rutgers broke the game open with five runs in the third and cruised to a 10-3 victory.

“We knew that they were going to be a tough team, and the game was a lot closer than the scoreboard showed,” said outfielder Yeram Park ’18. “If we had the chance to play them again — which we wish we could — we could beat them.”

In game two of Friday’s doubleheader, the Bears took on North Carolina Central University (0-16). Perhaps making up for a lackluster performance against Rutgers, Bruno came out fighting: After four runs in the second and three in the third, the game was effectively over. Leah Nakashima ’17 pitched a complete game shutout, while Schoenewald doubled, walked and scored two runs. The Bears ultimately had an easy five-inning, 8-0 victory.

“We were really confident that we’d play better,” Park said. “It was a confidence booster because we knew what we were capable of.”

Gina Chieffallo ’17 took the mound in a rematch against North Carolina Central to open Saturday’s action. Once again, the Bears struck early, scoring four runs in the first two innings. Chiefallo went the distance, not allowing an earned run. Co-captain and shortstop Janet Leung ’16 was 2-4 with an RBI, and Schoenewald continued her hot streak, going 2-4 as well.

“Gina pitched a great game, and she let our defense work,” Park said. “Our defense and our hitting were really solid, so it all came together that game.”

The Bears then took on UNC Greensboro (10-9) with Katie Orona ’18 back on the mound. Early on, Bruno appeared to have the contest sealed: The Bears scored two runs in the first inning and another in the second and added an insurance run in the fifth on a home run from the prolific Schoenewald.

But Orona faltered in the sixth: After Greensboro’s Lacey Leary singled to lead off the inning and advanced to second on a ground-out, Danielle Vega singled her home. Orona then allowed another single, bringing the tying run to the plate.

“With her pitching that game, we all had her back. We knew that she’d finish it out,” Park said. “We didn’t think the game would end with us losing.”

Sure enough, Orona escaped the inning with minimal damage, allowing a sacrifice fly and then striking out Greensboro shortstop Gabrielle Cubbage to end the threat. This was all the offense that Greensboro could muster: Three outs later, Orona had a complete game win, improving to 3-1 on the season, and the Bears had improved to 7-2.

Orona “has been our ace — last year, this year,” Park said. “We knew that she could hold the game.”

To close the weekend, the Bears played UNC Greensboro again, with Nakashima on the mound. Bruno started quickly, as Park doubled home Leung in the first, giving the Bears a 1-0 lead. But after that, Greensboro caught fire. The Spartans scored two runs in the first and three more in the second, knocking Nakashima from the game. 

Taking over on the mound, Orona temporarily stymied the Spartans’ offense, but the Bears could not muster any offense of their own. While Bruno struggled with only three hits after the first inning, Greensboro struck again in the fifth, adding two runs, and then ended the game in the sixth with three more.

“Obviously, it wasn’t the outcome we wanted,” Park said. “It’s tough to end the tournament with a loss. But overall, we all came out of the tournament learning something that we can improve on. Hopefully, in two weeks at our next tournament, it will show.”

One Bear avoided the game’s offensive struggles: Schoenewald continued to hit, going 2-for-3. She raised her average to an even .600, and her OPS is 1.763. For comparison, the MLB record for single-season OPS is 1.422. Schoenewald, who batted only .186 last year, is already within one hit of matching her 2015 total. In 10 games this season, she has eight extra-base hits. In the 70 previous games of her Brown career, she had nine.

The Bears now have two weeks off from gameplay before continuing their season at the College of Charleston Invitational in South Carolina. Last year, after 10 games, the Bears were 4-6.  This year, they are 7-3.

“I’m happy with where we are,” Park said. “Based on last year, our team is much better than what we were. We have so much depth, even on the bench. We can only get better from here.”


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