SFU Softball Sweeps Way To Team Of The Week
Simon Fraser received clutch hitting throughout a four-game sweep of Western Oregon, including from Hanna Finkelstein (right), who had two game-winning hits in the series. Photo by Wilson Wong.
Simon Fraser received clutch hitting throughout a four-game sweep of Western Oregon, including from Hanna Finkelstein (right), who had two game-winning hits in the series. Photo by Wilson Wong.

Monday, March 14, 2022

PORTLAND, Ore. – After the COVID-19 pandemic forced Simon Fraser to take a year off from competition, each SFU sport has had a moment where it played in Burnaby for the first time in nearly two years. None were more triumphant than SFU softball’s opening home series this past weekend.

Simon Fraser swept four games from Western Oregon, which entered the week with the best overall record in the conference, winning 5-3 and 9-7 on Saturday before taking an 11-2 run-rule win and a 6-5 win on Sunday. Both Saturday’s and Sunday’s second games were extra-inning wins, and three of the four games featured SFU coming from behind to take the lead in the fifth inning or later. For the statement sweep that vaulted them to the top of the early GNAC standings, Simon Fraser softball has been named the GNAC Team of the Week.

“To open up conference play with four wins is huge for us,” head coach Tina Andreana said. “After sitting out last season, it sets the tone early for our athletes that we can compete.”

Simon Fraser recorded a four-game sweep the last time it played at Beedie Field, defeating MSUB four times on Mar. 7-8, 2020. Two years and four days later, SFU picked up where they left off.

Western Oregon was no easy opening opponent. Last weekend was the opening weekend of the conference season, but WOU had compiled the best non-conference record of any GNAC team at 13-8 entering the Simon Fraser series.

Simon Fraser set the tone in game one by punching back with two offensive rallies. The game was deadlocked at 0-0 for three innings, but after Western Oregon scored two in the top of the fourth, Simon Fraser went to work. SFU scored unearned runs in the bottom of the fourth on a passed ball and a fielding error before freshman infielder Caitlin Zagari doubled home the third run of the inning. After the Wolves countered to tie the score in the top of the fifth, first baseman Hanna Finkelstein answered with a two-run bomb in the bottom to provide the final 5-3 margin.

That was just a prelude to the comeback effort in the nightcap. Simon Fraser found themselves down 7-3 after an inning and a half, but freshman pitcher Shaneika Hollingworth steadied the ship with six innings of one-hit relief. Down 7-4 entering the bottom of the seventh, Simon Fraser decided not to risk letting Western Oregon’s fielders make a play and started hitting everything out of the ballpark.

Freshman outfielder Janique Balcaen homered to lead off the inning, and then with one out and a runner on, Zagari hit a two-run blast to tie the score and send the game to extra innings. Hollingworth held WOU in the top of the eighth, and Simon Fraser wasted no time in its half, with a Finkelstein double and Chelsea Hotner two-run homer giving SFU game two in walk-off fashion.

“Our offense is off to a great start,” Andreana said. “It’s explosive up and down the line-up and any given day it could be any one of our hitters that win us a game.”

That explosiveness stayed on full display for Sunday’s doubleheader. The first game wasn’t even close as SFU jumped on Western Oregon for 10 runs in the first inning on a parade of eight singles, two walks and one error. The highlight of the inning was Alex Ogg and Finkelstein hitting their second singles of the inning to drive in three runs, then executing a double steal that included Ogg stealing home to make it 9-2. Ogg added another RBI single in the third to make it 11-2, which was the final margin in five innings.

Simon Fraser dipped back into its comeback formula for game four. Down 4-0 after three innings, SFU rallied with two in the fourth and three in the fifth, taking a 5-4 lead on an RBI single from Rebecca Kirkpatrick. Although Western Oregon tied things in the seventh, Simon Fraser walked it off again in its first extra-innings opportunity in the eighth with a classic small-ball approach. Megan Duclos led off the inning with a bunt single, stole second, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a base hit from Finkelstein, and SFU had their four-game sweep.

Up next, Simon Fraser will try its luck away from Beedie Field, traveling to Saint Martin’s for a four-game set in Lacey on Saturday and Sunday. The Saints are coming off a 6-0 week in non-conference play.

“It’s great for us to start on a high note, and important for us to keep playing tough throughout the season with how competitive and tough it is to play in the GNAC,” Andreana said.