On the Road With Softball at the NCAA’s: Day Three
May 12, 2012
AMHERST, MASS. — The resilient members of the Keuka College softball team displayed their grit during Friday’s second game of the NCAA Amherst regional at Amherst (Mass.) College.
Keuka, (23-12, 18-2 North Eastern Athletic Conference), the six-time NEAC postseason champions, let a pair of two-run leads slip away in its elimination game against St. Joseph’s (Maine).
To make matters worse, star sophomore pitcher Danielle Gravel (Sidney, NY/Sidney) was injured in the top of the seventh when she was struck by a batted ball on her pitching hand, but Gravel and the Storm found a way to win.
Gravel plated junior Brittany Smyder (Avon, NY/Avon) on a walk-off, RBI double in the bottom of the ninth to keep the Storm’s season alive with a thrilling, 5-4 win over St. Joe’s.
The eighth-seeded Storm lives to play another day. The Green and Gold next face another elimination game at 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon against No. 3 Amherst College (35-5), which fell to No. 2 SUNY Plattsburgh, 5-2 in Saturday’s first game.
In the third installment of “On the Road With Keuka Softball at the NCAA’s,” the three captains of the Storm, senior Elly Disbrow (Penn Yan, NY/Penn Yan), junior Terin Brown (Wayland, NY/Wayland-Cohocton) and sophomore Brooke Lovell (Arkport, NY/Arkport) sat down with Sports Information Director John Boccacino to discuss this squad’s resiliency, how they’re juggling the NCAA tournament with their end-of-year academic responsibilities and what the team’s unofficial motto is for this remarkable season.
John Boccacino: “Another thrilling NCAA game, but this time Keuka is able to emerge with a 5-4 win in nine innings. Before we get into details about the game-winning hit, how scary was it for the team when Gravel took that line drive flush off of her pitching hand?”
Terin Brown: “We rely on Danielle so much that she is a huge, deciding factor in these games and if we lose her, we could be done. But she pulled through for us in a big way. We all knew she was hurting, but she is a fighter and she got it done.”
Elly Disbrow: “We sometimes put ourselves in a hole, but we always fight back. That’s one of the things that I love about our team is we fight and we fight to the end and we have a lot of character. Obviously no one has more character than Danielle, the way she played. Even if we don’t have our best, we’re still able to come up with a win.”
Boccacino: “All season long, the team has prided itself on outstanding team defense, and that was the case again in the win over St. Joe’s. The Storm played a near-flawless game in the field, not committing an error while turning a crucial double play in the ninth to neutralize a St. Joe’s scoring opportunity. How clutch was the defense today?”
Brooke Lovell: “I got a little nervous when they had runners at first and second and only one out in the ninth, but of course we got a double play. I thought we played really well in the field today, especially after Danielle got hit. We stepped it up even more. All of their hits were in good locations and we didn’t have any errors. I think we played solid defense.”
Brown: “You almost feel bad for St. Joe’s a little bit. They doubled us up in hits and we were still able to win. Our hit-to-run ration was excellent and we produced a lot when we weren’t getting a lot of hits.”
Disbrow: “They had a lot of hits but they just didn’t have the hits back-to-back. I think that says a lot about our defense, that they can have a hit and get on base, but we can still hold them. It was definitely a game of shifting momentum, like a pendulum, but I’m glad it ended with us winning!”
Boccacino: “Danielle definitely wins the award for most courageous. The way she fought through the pain to hold St. Joe’s to just the two runs in the seventh, then she comes out and keeps the Storm in the game with a pair of scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth was quite impressive. But not as impressive as her game-winning double into the right-center field gap. How much did the players want to win this game, especially seeing Danielle fight through the injury?”
Lovell: “We knew that once Dani got hit, we really wanted to win the game. When that happened, we wanted to end the game as soon as we could, but it didn’t play out that way. That’s the sign of a good team, too, is getting it done in situations like that, especially high-pressure situations. That was awesome that Dani got the hit to win the game; that was clutch.”
Disbrow: “We wish we had pulled it out in the seventh, but you can’t feel bad about a win in the NCAA’s. We wanted to end the game sooner than later, especially not knowing about Dani’s wrist injury.”
Brown: “Watching Dani’s hit was really exciting. [It was so exciting] Brooke actually shoved me out of the way!”
Boccacino: “Is that true Brooke? What were the emotions that were running through your head as you saw Gravel’s clutch hit with Smyder rounding the bases as fast as possible?”
Lovell: “I actually sprinted out of the dugout and I was on the field watching. I was like, ‘Get going Brittany,’ and I was right there at home plate, I wasn’t even close to being on deck. I did have to shove some people out of the way to get out of the dugout, but I had to see it. I think we’re all real happy to still be here and to still be playing.”
Boccacino: “While most of the other teams competing in Amherst are done with classes and finals, we’re fast-approaching the end of the academic year. How are the student-athletes coping with facing the best teams in the region on the softball diamond while also working on finals and year-ending projects?”
Lovell: “It’s all about balancing. When we have down moments in the hotel, I know a lot of people go to quiet places and do homework, especially at night and a little in the morning. But the big struggle is in the morning. A lot of us are just focused on getting ready for the games, so I think people kind of put school work to the side and do that at night, when the games are over.”
Brown: “It’s hard because everyone else is done and they have nothing to really worry about, but we’ve done this every year and we’ve been fine, so we’re used to it.”
Boccacino: “The Storm is still alive after salvaging a split of its first two NCAA regional games, what has to happen on Saturday against the loser of Amherst and SUNY Plattsburgh for the Green and Gold to keep this remarkable season going?”
Lovell: “We just have to keep our momentum going. Even if we get down, just don’t give up, just like we did on Friday.”
Disbrow: “I kind of feel like the motto for our season is unconventional but effective. It feels good to go out and get those NCAA wins and have those other teams maybe have a little bit more respect for Keuka. We’re helping to make Keuka a name that people know.”
Check back Sunday for another installment of “On the Road With Keuka.”