The UR softball team has started the season on a tear with an 8-3 record, giving them a .727 winning percentage. They have ripped through University Athletic Association opponents and teams ranked in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division III Top 25 Poll, as well as garnering numerous awards throughout the first two weeks of the season.

The ‘Jackets started off the season over spring break by heading down to Altamonte Springs, Fla. for a game against Pennsylvania State University at Behrend and then to play UAA division rivals, ending the break with a clinch of the UAA Championship title for the first time in UR softball history.

Softball began the season on March 11 by beating Penn State Behrend, 9-1, in a little pre-UAA action to warm up for the big guns. Senior Jena Robertson pitched four innings, giving up two hits, no runs, one walk and striking out eight batters. Sophomore Beth Ameno came in to pitch two innings in relief, allowing no hits and striking out four batters, but hit one batter with a pitch, which later resulted in the sole run for Behrend. Junior Alicia Citro led the team with three hits in the game.

UAA division play commenced two days later for the ‘Jackets with a 4-3 win over Washington University in St. Louis. Ameno pitched a complete game for a line of five hits, three runs, five walks and nine strikeouts over seven innings. Junior center fielder Jessica Sorrentino scored the game-winning run in the seventh inning with a leadoff home run. This sent the Wash U. Bears’ 27-game UAA tournament winning streak to a crashing end. In addition, Sorrentino led the team with three hits in the game.

On March 14, UR split a doubleheader, losing to Brandeis University, 5-2, and winning against Case Western Reserve University, 8-5. Against Brandeis, Robertson pitched 4.1 innings, getting tagged for eight hits and five earned runs, while walking one and striking out three batters. Junior Carly Hoffend came on in relief to pitch 2.2 scoreless innings of five-hit ball while walking one and striking out two. Robertson went two for four with a home run in the bottom of the fifth. In the second game of the doubleheader, Hoffend started the game against Case’s Spartans, going five innings. She gave up 10 hits and three runs, while walking one and fanning four. Ameno picked up the ball in relief to throw two innings, giving up four hits, two runs and striking out two. Sophomore catcher Megan Winn led the team at the plate, going three for four with four RBIs, including a two-run homer.

UAA play continued for the ‘Jackets on the Ides of March as they split another day of doubleheader action, winning 4-3 against Emory University, before being shut out 8-0 by Wash U. In the Emory game, Ameno took the mound to pitch six innings, allowing eight hits, one walk and three runs on three errors committed behind her, while striking out two. Hoffend came in to pitch one frame in relief, getting the win after putting up zeros across the board. Senior Sam Carr broke a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the seventh inning with a suicide squeeze bunt for the win. Also at the plate, Robertson went 3-4 with a home run, a double and a single.

The ‘Jackets picked up their fourth win in UAA play on March 16 with a 9-1 win over the Brandeis Judges. Ameno went two innings, allowing two hits, one unearned run and striking out three. Hoffend followed Ameno with a strong outing of scoreless five-inning ball while giving up three hits. On the offensive end of things, Robertson and Sorrentino each doubled to left field for two RBIs apiece, helping put together a four run second inning.

The team concluded UAA division play on St. Patrick’s Day, sweeping a doubleheader against Case, 4-3, and Emory, 3-1. In the win versus Case, Robertson went four innings, giving up two hits, three walks and two runs, while sending five back to the dugout on strikes. Hoffend pitched three frames, allowing three hits and a run in relief. Carr went two for four with a double and a single. Junior Andrea LaRocque went two for three with a pair of singles. In play against Emory, Ameno pitched her second complete game of the season, going seven innings and giving up three hits, two walks and one run, while striking out two. Sophomore Kristen DeCarlo made the difference in the game after hitting a two-run double to right- center. LaRocque capped off a great day with a home run to left-center. These two wins gave the ‘Jackets a 6-2 record in UAA division play, good enough to share the championship title with Wash U.

“Last year we had some close games with Wash U. and Emory, and for the first time I think [the team] felt they could compete with that level of competition,” head coach Michelle Burrell said. “We got a lot accomplished during our preseason and made the best of being indoors.”

In the Yellowjackets’ most recent play this past Sunday, they split a doubleheader with third-ranked Ithaca College, losing the first game, 2-1, and winning the second game by the same score. In game one, despite recording the loss, Ameno pitched her third complete game of the season. She struck out four, allowing two runs on six hits and three walks.

In game two, Hoffend started, pitching five innings of six-hit ball, giving up only one run and striking out two. Ameno came on in relief to get the save, pitching two shutout frames. She gave up three hits but fanned four batters. Sorrentino brought out the power stroke, going deep in each game with two solo shots. In the second game, Carr went a perfect four for four on four singles with an RBI. LaRocque went two for three with a single and a double. The win in game two marks the fourth time this season that Rochester has beaten a ranked opponent.

When asked about the team’s increased success despite little changes to the roster, Burrell attributed some to the fact that it was the team’s first year without a new coach in a long time.

“There was no adjustment period this year, so we got right to work on the things that we needed to work on,” she said. “I feel like this group trusts each other more on the field this year and have great leadership with Jena and Sam as our two seniors and captains. We have a lot of different people stepping up with big hits or big outs and are doing so in key situations.”

After playing 11 games, Carr leads the team with a .400 batting average and a .475 on base percentage. She is followed by Robertson and Sorrentino in each of those categories. Ameno boasts a 1.65 ERA, holding opposing hitters to a paltry .235, appearing in a team-high 34 innings over eight appearances and leads the team with 31 strikeouts.

Burrell also commented on the fact that the team’s current ERA is more than a full point lower than the combined ERA of their opponents.

“Our pitchers were inexperienced at the collegiate level last year and all three felt much more comfortable going into this season,” she said. “I’m confident that our pitchers will keep us in games and our batters just need to continue to give consistent run support behind them.”

The team racked up quite a list of awards and honors for their quality play on the field.

UR’s most dignified accomplishment thus far is appearing for the first time on the NFCA Division III Top 25 Poll ranked as No. 18. They are now the highest ranked team in the UAA.

“It is a great recognition for the program and the girls,” Burrell said. “After the way they played in Florida and this past weekend, they proved they should be there.”

The latest individual awards went to Sorrentino and Hoffend. This past Monday, Sorrentino was named Liberty League Performer of the Week after hitting a home run in each game of a doubleheader against third-ranked Ithaca.

“I am happy that I got that award,” Sorrentino said, “but winning has always been a team effort and without the rest of the team there is no way we could have beaten Ithaca.”

Also on Monday, Hoffend was named Liberty League Co-Pitcher of the Week, for a strong pitching performance over Ithaca. < /p>

For the week of March 18, Robertson was named Liberty League Performer of the Week and Ameno garnered Liberty League Pitcher of the Week. For the previous week of March 11, Citro won Liberty League Performer of the Week honors and Robertson was awarded Liberty League Pitcher of the Week.

In addition to all of these Liberty League awards, five players on the softball team have received All-UAA honors. Robertson was named to the First Team, while Ameno, Carr, DeCarlo and Sorrentino were all named to the Second Team.

Honors also extended to the coaching staff with Burrell and assistant coach Margaret Yerdon being awarded Coaching Staff of the Year by the UAA.

“Having consistency in [the] coaching staff made a big difference,” junior Rachel Skellie said. “This is our first year having the same coach for more than one year.”

Besides providing consistency, Burrell has helped the team to hone their skills.

“She has refined our technique both offensively and defensively,” Skellie said.

On Thursday, UR plays St. John Fisher College away at 3 p.m., and, on Friday, they match up against Rochester Institute of Technology at home on the Southside Softball Field at 3 p.m.

Levy is a member of the class of 2008.

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