Softball Takes On Monmouth In First Round Of NEC Championships Friday

The Time Has Come
The Quinnipiac University softball team will travel to New Jersey this weekend to compete in the 2010 Northeast Conference Softball Championships, hosted by Long Island University on the Fairleigh Dickinson Campus in Teaneck. This is the first postseason appearance for the Bobcats since 2007 and they will face off against Monmouth University in the first round on Friday, May 14. The two teams are scheduled for a 12:15 p.m. start at FDU Softball Field. In their last contest, the Bobcats closed out the regular season with a doubleheader sweep of Fairleigh Dickinson on May 8.

Scouting the Hawks
Monmouth finished the regular season with a 28-16 overall record while posting a 15-4 record in NEC play. With their conference record, the Hawks finished in second place in the conference with a .789 winning percentage in NEC action. In their final regular season outing, Monmouth swept Bryant in a conference doubleheader on May 6. Senior catcher Jessica Nicola leads the team offensively as she bats .348 through 44 games played. Nicola leads the team in slugging percentage with a .616 mark. Pitchers Melissa Mehrer and Lauren Sulick have split time from the circle for Monmouth this season, as Sulick posts a 12-6 record with a 1.48 ERA and Mehrer holds a 16-8 record with a 3.07 ERA. Combined, the two pitchers have struck out 196 batters.

This Season Against the Hawks
The Bobcats and the Hawks played to an intense doubleheader earlier this season in West Long Branch, N.J., with Quinnipiac coming away with the sweep on April 17. Offense was the main feature of game one, as the Bobcats came away with a 14-11 victory with senior Kelly Wall (Westport, Conn.) contributing a three-run homer in the fourth. Game two went into extra innings with senior Heather Maffeo (Milton, Mass.) driving in the game-winning run in the top of the ninth.

Tournament Participants
Four teams will play in this year's NEC Championship. For the fifth straight year, Long Island captured the regular-season crown, and they will serve as hosts of the tournament. The games will be played, however, at Fairleigh Dickinson in New Jersey. Long Island will kick off the tournament against the #4-seed, Robert Morris, on Friday morning at 10 a.m. before #3 Quinnipiac takes on #2 Monmouth at 12:15 p.m.

Tournament Format
The championship will consist of a four-team, double-elimination tournament comprised of six or seven games over two days. After the first two games are played, the loser from each game will play at 2:45 p.m., while the winners from each game will play at 5 p.m. On Saturday at 10 a.m., the loser from game four will take on the winner from game three to determine the second elimination. The championship will take place at 12:15 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. All games will be broadcasted on Northeast Conference TV.

In the final week of regular-season voting, freshman Alex Alba (Sylmar, Calif.) and sophomore RHP Heather Schwartzburg (Mission Viejo, Calif.) earned the weekly conference awards from Akadema and the Northeast Conference. For the first time this season, Alba was named the NEC Player and Rookie of the Week after posting solid offensive numbers against Fairleigh Dickinson on May 8. Schwartzburg earns the Pitcher of the Week honors for the third time this season as she picked up both wins against the Knights in the final contest of the regular season.

Fantastic Freshman
Alba finished the regular season on a high-note, going 5-for-7 with six RBI in the Bobcats' final doubleheader against Fairleigh Dickinson. The freshman went 2-for-3 in game one, driving in the game's first run before hitting her second homerun of the season in the fourth inning. The two-run shot helped the team to a 7-4 win in the first game against the Knights. Alba knocked in all three runs in the 3-1 victory in game two, going 3-for-4 from the plate. The rookie currently leads the team with a .329 batting average and 46 hits.

High-Class Hurler
Schwartzburg saw action in both games against Fairleigh Dickinson on May 8. She came in for a relief effort in game one, pitching 4.2 innings to earn the 7-4 victory against the Knights. Schwartzburg allowed just one run on one hit in the first game and struck out five batters. The sophomore struck out five more in the second game, pitching her 19th complete game of the season. She allowed three hits in the seven-inning effort, earning her 20th win of the 2010 season. Schwartzburg is just the second Quinnipiac softball player to register 20 wins in a season and is the first to do so since Michelle Boisvert posted 21 wins in the 1995 season.

Winner's Circle
In the 2010 regular season, the Bobcats posted the best overall and conference record in more than five years. The overall record (28-22) is the best seen since the 2003 season when the team posted a 34-19 total mark. The 15-5 Northeast Conference record is the best since the 2004 season, when Quinnipiac went 16-4 in league play.

Spring Has Sprung
The second half of the 2010 season saw a strong upturn from the first half of the season. Through February and March (which saw a lot of non-conference play) the Bobcats posted an 11-15 overall record. Though that record was still one of the best starts seen in program history, it was in the second half of the season that Quinnipiac turned up the heat. In April and May, the team posted a 17-7 record overall, and the team is currently on a five-game winning streak heading into the NEC Tournament.