Tom Pardalis was hoping for more. So was Stephanie Reinhardt.
On a weekend that saw the Manhattan College softball team take on a Siena team that was hot on its heels in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, standings in a doubleheader last Saturday followed by a Sunday twin bill against defending MAAC champion Marist, last weekend presented the perfect opportunity for the Jaspers to put some distance between them and the rest of the MAAC.
But a 1-1 Saturday against Siena was followed by another 1-1 performance Sunday vs. the Red Foxes, all of which means when the Jaspers woke up Monday morning, they were sitting in a tie for first in the MAAC with Iona College, holding identical 10-4 records. Both schools still lead both Siena (9-5) and Monmouth (9-5) by just a game with six conference games to play.
What it comes down to is the Jaspers left themselves precious little room for error if they hope to win the MAAC regular season title and earn the right to host the postseason tournament next month.
“When you’re playing at home, you really got to win both games,” said Pardalis, the Jaspers head coach. “It’s disappointing. I thought we played poorly this weekend, and we got to play better if we want to win this thing.”
On Saturday the Jaspers opened up with a 5-3 loss to Siena in a game that saw Manhattan unable to hold a 2-0 lead into the sixth inning. That was before some uncharacteristic sloppy defense by the Jaspers led to four Saints runs in the top of the sixth, two of which scored courtesy of Manhattan errors.
The Jaspers rebounded to take the second game from Siena, 3-2. And when they topped Marist in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader, 8-6, it looked like it had the makings of a very memorable weekend for Manhattan.
But with the Jaspers leading 3-2 in the second game, Marist tied it at 3 in the sixth, eventually forcing extra innings. That’s when Marist’s Janna Korak clubbed a two-run homer in the top of the eighth to give the Red Foxes the 5-3 victory.
“We can’t give away runs, and we gave away runs the whole weekend,” Pardalis said. “It’s disappointing, especially because of how well we’ve been playing on defense. We beat ourselves, they didn’t beat us. But I think things will work out.”
The 2-2 weekend put a little damper on Senior Day celebrations for the Jaspers, whose three seniors — Reinhardt, Jenn Vazquez and Danielle Gabriel — were playing the final home conference doubleheader of their careers.
“It was a little melancholy because I really feel when we play here on the turf we have an advantage,” said Reinhardt, the Jaspers senior shortstop who had an RBI and a pair of runs scored on the weekend. “But we still have a lot of games left in the season. We have two weekends left of MAAC play. So it was sad that I’m leaving Gaelic (Park), but it’s still OK because we have some more games left.”
Those games are all on the road and will include trips to Fairfield this weekend and visits to both Quinnipiac and Iona the weekend of May 6. If the Jaspers (26-14 overall) have designs on winning the MAAC and hosting the postseason tournament, they likely will need four or five victories in those six games.
“We’re all pretty equal, but if we don’t make mistakes and we play the way we’re supposed to, we can win this thing,” Pardalis said. “But you don’t know which kids are going to show up some times.”
Reinhardt said she and her teammates have talked often about what it would be like to host the tournament for the first time. The opportunity is there, now the Jaspers just have to go out and take it.
“I think it would be really awesome if we could host,” Reinhardt said. “We’ve never done it before. We’ve asked ourselves, ‘What would it be like to host the MAACs? During finals week, how cool would it be to host?’ It would be a great way to end my career.
“But ‘one game at a time’ is the motto this year.“