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FULLERTON, Calif. — Erin Gallo tossed a one-hit shutout to lead the Columbia softball team over Cal State Fullerton, 5-0, late Tuesday evening at Anderson Family Field.
Gallo was phenomenal, striking out a career-high seven to record her first collegiate shutout. She retired 11 straight after walking the first batter she faced, Cal State Fullerton (11-13), which advanced to the NCAA Regionals each of the last two seasons, got a two-out hit in the fourth, but that was all. The night belonged to the native of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, who retired 21 of the 25 batters she faced and got the final out on her 100th pitch.
“It felt really good to just come out and throw,” said Gallo, who bested her six strikeouts from a relief appearance on Feb. 23 at Florida Atlantic. “I just tried to keep them off balance with a good mix of pitches. The defense was amazing. Maria, Jordan, our outfield and everyone was just making awesome plays. It wouldn’t have been the same game without all of them.”
Columbia (5-9) had a clean defensive game that included some great plays by first-year shortstop Maria Pagane and junior Jordan Townsend. Pagane made a diving catch to preserve a no-hitter in the fourth and Townsend caught a bullet at third in the second.
The Lions also backed their pitcher up offensively, striking for a run before she had to throw a single pitch and adding timely insurance. Senior Madison Gott brought home two to increase the lead to 3-0 in the fifth. A two-out rally with back-to-back doubles by senior Taylor Troutt and junior Bonnie Schipper added two more to the lead in the seventh. All told, the Lions got 10 hits off Fullerton’s freshman ace, Taylor Dockins (5-4).
“We talk about the three facets of the game all the time – pitching, defense and hitting – and it was all spot on tonight,” head coach Jennifer Teague stated. “Erin was fantastic and I would be remiss if I didn’t credit our pitching coach, Cassie Vondrak, for the game she called for her. It really helped that our offense jumped on the board right away and the meat of our order produced. We made some spectacular plays on defense and I couldn’t’ be prouder.”
Columbia took advantage of a Fullerton miscue to get on the board in the top of the first. Senior Olivia Parker was rewarded on a ground ball hit to third that popped out of the glove of Deshea Hill. A successful sac by Pagane and an infield single by Gott moved Parker over to third. Sophomore Sommer Grzybek drove her in with a flair over the head of second baseman Sam Kennedy.
The Lions threatened for more by loading the bases with only one out. Junior Bonnie Schipper cracked a liner to left-center that seemed destined to fall, but it was caught on the run by the center fielder and chased Columbia’s lead runner back to third. A fly out got Dockins out of the inning with only one run allowed.
Gallo surrendered a leadoff walk but held the Titans off the board in the bottom half. She punched out two in the inning, getting Sammie Vandiver looking and Zoe Richard swinging to retire the side.
Gallo remained in command and retired 11 straight after the leadoff walk. A diving catch by Pagane in the fourth kept the no-hitter alive until Zoe Richard punched one through the middle with two down. Gallo didn’t let it bother her, striking out her fourth Titan of the night to keep the Lions on top 1-0.
Gott added two big insurance runs in the fifth. The table setters reached as Swinarski singled and Parker was hit by a pitch to put two on. Gott stepped up and drove an 0-1 pitch to the right-center field gap, bringing both of her teammates home and increasing the lead to 3-0. Taylor Troutt nearly added two more but came inches shy of a two-run homer.
Gallo retired the side in order in the fifth before getting in a little trouble in the sixth. Two walks brought Deshea Hill to bat with one out. After a visit by Vondrak, Gallo settled down and struck out Fullerton’s leader in hitting (.420) and RBIs (14). She got Richard out on a ball hit to short to end the inning.
Columbia made Gallo all the more comfortable by giving her a five-run lead in the seventh. Sommer Grzybek started a two-out rally by beating out an infield single on a ball hit to short. Troutt stepped up and drove in Grzybek on a screamer off the wall in right. Schipper tattooed the next pitch to the gap in left center to make it 5-0.
Gallo began the seventh with her career-high seventh strikeout, sending Ari Williams back to the dugout looking. She threw just eight pitches in the final frame to complete the shutout.
Columbia makes a quick turnaround to play Loyola Marymount on Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. ET, noon PT. The Lions begin their flight back to New York Wednesday night.