Softball season starts with Ries walk-off

By Samantha Meyer

The Cleveland State University softball team began their 2019 outdoor season on Feb. 15, at the Pirate Clash hosted by East Carolina University. The Vikings played four games over the span of three days, ending the tournament with a 1-3 record.

After losing to East Carolina 9-8 and St. Francis University 5-0, the team headed into the second day of the tournament to face Wagner University.  With the game tied at 6 after seven innings, the teams went into extra innings. In the bottom of the ninth inning, down 7-6 with runners on second and third, it all came down to senior Riley Ries. Ries singled into left field, while freshman Abby Tolstyka and sophomore Lindsay Ward crossed home plate, to win the game 8-7 on Ries walk-off single.

When asked about the walk-off, Ries credits her teammates for putting her in the position to help the team win the game.

“My teammates set up the situation for me,” Ries said. “They did their job, so I knew I needed to do mine and that was to get a hit. The feeling was overwhelming after I rounded first to see my teammate score the winning run.”

The whole team helped contribute to the win, and it all started with freshman Hanna Griffin on the mound, who pitched 6.2 innings without giving up any earned runs. Junior Kelly Hysong had two hits for the Vikings, and sophomore Sydney Bajusz helped the comeback effort with a single, which scored freshman pinch-runner Mackenzie Tucker.

On day three, the team fell short of a second win, losing to St. Francis again, this time by a 9-3 score. During the game, Hysong hit a solo home run and had two hits for the Vikings. Sophomore Lindsay Ward and freshman Alyssa Rose also contributed to the score, each driving in a run.

Ries still saw improvement from all the athletes, despite suffering three losses in the tournament.

“We have made a lot of strides in the span of those four games,” Ries said. “The outcomes of the games have not really showed how close the games were played.”

Coming off the 2018 season where the team went 15-34, the team needed someone to help light a fire into the program. That person is head coach Amy Kyler. Kyler, a former pitcher for Cleveland State softball and a 2008 Athletics Hall of Fame inductee, comes to Cleveland State after being head coach at Notre Dame College for the past 11 years. She took over after former head coach, Becky Norris resigned at the end of the 2018 season.

Ries said that the team can see the fire and passion that Kyler brings.

“Coach Kyler has brought a new fire and passion to a team that had been lacking those characteristics in the past,” Ries said. “She brings a lot of energy everyday and pushes us to become better players and more importantly, better people. I am very thankful to be a part of this team for my last year playing for Cleveland State.”

The Cleveland State softball team has a long season ahead of them. The team traveled to Bowling Green, Kentucky to take on Indiana State University, Butler University and Western Kentucky University as a part of the Hilltopper Classic Feb. 24 and 25.

The Vikings are also looking forward to their first home game on April 5, where they will take on Horizon League opponent, Wisconsin-Green Bay University.