By COURTNEY LEWIS
---- — Last year, the Plattsburgh State softball team got on a roll in April, winning 10 of its last 11 in the regular season, and carried that over into a long postseason run.
The Cardinals had a similar hot streak late in the regular season this year, until that momentum stalled a little last weekend. But they’re still going into the playoffs with confidence.
“I think our main focus was the conference all along,” Plattsburgh coach Stephanie Zweig said. “We’re proud of what we’ve done, we’ve definitely done some growing, and we’re ready to be the team we think we can be (in the playoffs).”
The third-seeded Cardinals (22-14) take on No. 4 seed Geneseo at 1 p.m. today in the SUNY Athletic Conference Tournament at Brockport. In today’s other games, No. 1 Brockport will meet No. 6 Oswego, and No. 2 Cortland will play No. 5 New Paltz. The winner of the double-elimination tournament earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III playoffs.
Geneseo (20-18) lost four of its last six regular-season games. The Blue Knights beat Oswego in the first game of a doubleheader last weekend but fell in the second game and then were swept by Cortland the next day. They split a nonconference matchup with D’Youville on Tuesday.
The Knights went on an eight-game winning streak in the middle of the season, including a victory over eventual SUNYAC regular-season champion Brockport.
The Cardinals swept Geneseo 5-4 and 6-1 March 29.
Plattsburgh won 10-of-11 games down the stretch before dropping the second game of a doubleheader against Fredonia last Saturday and then losing nonconference games to Ithaca and Union on Sunday.
The Cardinals combined for nine errors in those three losses, but Zweig didn’t seem to be overly concerned about their defensive play going into the tournament.
“I think those errors are definitely mental, and it comes down to just relaxing at the end of the day, being able to trust yourself,” she said. Zweig also noted that Plattsburgh had numerous backups in the lineup against Union.
Plattsburgh is the defending SUNYAC champion and also the defending Regional champion, and Zweig said although this year’s team has a different lineup, it can be a threat in the playoffs again. The coach also said she believes the Cardinals likely need the conference’s automatic bid in order to get into the NCAA playoffs.
“I think we have a little bit of a one-up on everybody having Ashley (Marshall) as a defending champion pitcher who has been out there before,” Zweig said. “We have to not expect to have what we had last season; just take it one win at a time.”
Marshall, a senior, leads the conference in six pitching categories, including ERA (1.89), strikeouts (260) and wins (19). She’s used to being the Cardinals’ ace, and although they expect to rely on her heavily this week, Zweig said that shouldn’t be added pressure on the Malone native.
“I’m hoping she doesn’t feel any extra pressure; I’m not putting any extra pressure on her,” Zweig said. “It’s almost better for her than in the regular season because we only play a team once, and she may only have one game a day.
“She knows she has backup if she needs it, and she knows what kind of team she has behind her. I hope she’s relaxed and just excited to hopefully prolong her season.”
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