No. 7 Moment of 2012-13: Softball opens newly renovated field

Olivia Taylor home run
Olivia Taylor rounding third base on her home run.

Over the next 10 weeks, Pitt-Bradford athletics will bring you the Top 10 Moments of the 2012-13 school year.

Each week a new moment will debut, featuring insight from coaches, players, and Sports Information Director Scott Elliott. It all leads up to the No. 1 moment in Panther athletics, which will be revealed the week of Aug. 5.

"There's no place like home. There's no place like home."

Those words never rang more true for the 2013 Pitt-Bradford softball team. The Panthers spent the previous season without a home, literally.

The Kessel Athletic Complex underwent a $2.5 million renovation during the summer of 2011, including the demolition and rebuilding of the University's softball facility. The field was re-oriented to accommodate the new dimensions of 280 feet in the outfield, raised more than three feet and equipped with new lights.

To ensure the grass and infield dirt would have time to develop and settle, the Panthers were forced to play all "home" games at St. Bonaventure. In 10 pseudo home contests, they won just two games.

So imagine the team's excitement when it stepped on the new field this past fall for practice? Last year, outdoor practices were conducted at the baseball field.

Fast-forward to this spring. The team's first three attempts at its home opener were washed out by the weather, but on Saturday, April 6, the Panthers would play their first official games on the new field.

They were coming off a thrilling two-game sweep of defending AMCC champion Penn State Behrend, adding to the drama of their home opener against Franciscan.

Softball coach Tina Phillips brought in former pitcher and recent Hall of Fame inductee Kristy Zavinski to toss out the ceremonial first pitch to assistant coach Lauryn Weaver, who owns nearly every major career-hitting record in school history.

The entire team, Coach Phillips and athletics director Lori Mazza held an honorary ribbon-cutting ceremony commemorating the special moment. Phillips recalls the response from her players the most.

"It was exciting for me to see how excited the players were to be on the field," said Phillips. "Though we were able to get on it in fall ball and they were excited then, playing our first game on the field was even more exciting."

Junior Sydney Mosby took the ball in game one and promptly struck out the first two batters. She allowed a base hit to the next batter before inducing an inning-ending groundout to second base moments later.

The Panthers made sure the celebratory mood would stick around, erupting for six runs in their half of the first en route to winning 11-0.

In the nightcap, Pitt-Bradford had to come from behind after giving up three first-inning runs to the Barons. Mosby trimmed the deficit to one in the third with a RBI double, and two batters later, Olivia Taylor landed the knockout punch: a two-out towering three-run home run to left field. Her shot cleared the fences by a good 10 feet.

"To the team, the new facility is a place we can better grow and build on our growing family," said Taylor. "The home run was just a preview for the amazing seasons to come at the new home of the Pitt-Bradford softball team."

The Panthers would tack on two more runs in the fourth and fifth innings, and freshman Jenifer Anthony pitched the final two frames to earn her first career save. The victory pushed the team's winning streak to a season-best seven games.

Pitt-Bradford would go 8-4 in the confines of its new digs, eventually propelling a thrilling run to the AMCC title game. But that's a story for another day.

The weather cooperated that day, and so did the Panthers. It will be a day no one will soon forget.

"It was a great day for Pitt-Bradford softball," said Phillips. "For this means so much to the program for all the past players to current players to future players to carry on our strong tradition. It is a start of a new era in a way."

The players shared their coach's sentiments, including Mosby, who played on the previous field.

"It was nice to finally have a place to call our home field and have fans at our games," said Mosby. "And to have it be such a beautiful field on top of it was even better. And now we have a place to make memories and leave behind a legacy."

Sophomore Ang Comilla stressed the importance of preforming well in front of the home fans.

"Having the availability of a new home field meant that the team could now have a place to play the best we can," said Comilla, a Bradford native. "And we are now able to have our friends and peers in the stands along with our family.

"The entire brand new field makes the team realize each game's importance to perform well for Bradford in order to pull out home wins."

The new facility is stunning and unparalleled within the conference. It elevates the program, and Phillips is keenly aware of that.

"This is an impressive facility," said Phillips. "It will benefit our student-athletes by providing them with a top-notch practice and competition facility. Not only the playing field, but having bullpens, batting cages, a press box, concessions and restroom facilities. It will also enhance recruiting efforts of future Panthers."

The 2013 season was memorable for several reasons, but that Saturday in early April signified a special day in the history of Pitt-Bradford softball. It's a moment that will be shared by the players and coaches for years to come.