The Gannon softball team used an extra-inning affair and a shortened contest to open the 2013 season with a pair of victories Sunday afternoon at the National Training Center Games in Clermont, Florida. The Lady Knights opened the year with a 6-4 victory against Georgian Court in eight innings, before blasting Grand Valley State 10-2 in five innings. The Lakers were among others receiving votes in the latest National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) national rankings.

In the opener, Gannon erased an early 1-0 deficit with three runs during the top of the third inning. Jess Rectenwald (Pittsburgh, Pa./North Hills) tied the contest with a two-out single that scored Alyssa Bates(Greensburg, Pa./Hempfield). Kirstie Cortazzo (Jeannette, Pa./Jeannette) followed with a two-run double to right center.

Gannon extended its lead to 4-1 in the fourth inning when Alexa Archambeault (Horseheads, N.Y./Horseheads) led off the frame with a double and scored on an error.

The opener appeared to be well in hand until Georgian Court rallied to tie the game with three runs during the bottom of the seventh inning. Justine Mattia’s bases-clearing double with one out was the big blow. Megan Dragon (Ashtabula, Ohio/Edgewood) was then called out of the bullpen and forced extra innings with a strikeout and a line-out.

Gannon wasted little time grabbing the lead back, scoring two runs during the top of the eighth inning. Caitlyn Colucci (Lancaster, N.Y./Sacred Heart) was placed on second base due to the tiebreaker rules, but she was still there two outs later. However, Colucci eventually came across the plate with the go-ahead run on Meghan Cunha‘s (North Kingsville, Ohio/Edgewood) RBI single. Cunha advanced to second on the throw home and scored an insurance run on Archambeault’s single to left field.

That was all Gannon needed as Rectenwald and Erica Bartholow(Connellsville, Pa./Connellsville Area) combined to allow only one walk during the bottom of the eighth inning.

Cunha and Archambeault recorded two hits each along with scoring a run and driving in a run. Cortazzo led the team in RBIs with two. Six different Lady Knights recorded a hit. Six different players scored a run and four drove in a run.

Dragon picked up the victory with two-thirds of a scoreless relief inning. Bartholow earned the save with two-thirds of a scoreless inning herself. Rectenwald started the contest on the mound, allowing four runs on eight hits in 6 2/3 innings. The sophomore struck out seven, but walked six.

In the nightcap, Gannon scored runs during four of its five at-bats and rolled past former conference rival Grand Valley State 10-2 in five innings. The Lady Knights erased an early 2-0 deficit with a five-run second inning. The squad added a single run during the third inning, before ending the contest with two runs during both the fourth and fifth innings.

The second-inning outburst started with Cunha cutting the deficit in half after scoring on an error. Bates pushed the Lady Knights ahead 3-2 with a two-run double. A Colucci sacrifice fly made the score 4-2, before Katie Dunn (Troy, Mich./Troy) scored a fifth run on another error.

Dunn accounted for the third-inning run with an RBI single. Cunha had a two-run single during the fourth inning. Cortazzo ended the contest with a two-run single during the bottom of the fifth frame.

Cortazzo finished 2-for-4 with one run and two RBIs. Cunha went 2-for-2 with two runs and one RBI. Seven of the nine starters recorded a hit. Eight scored a run and five drove home a run.

Dragon went the distance, picking up her second victory in as many games. The senior surrendered only two unearned runs on five hits through five innings. She struck out four and walked two.

Gannon improved to 2-0 with Sunday’s opening victories. Georgian Court dropped to 0-2 while Grand Valley State finished its first day with a 1-1 split. The Lady Knights continue play at the NTC Games Monday, March 4 against Wayne State (Neb.) (1 p.m.) and the University of Mary (N.D.) (3 p.m.).