Softball Splits Pair Of Games In First Day Of NEC Championships

Moon Township, Pa. - The Quinnipiac softball team lost to the second-seeded Sacred Heart Pioneers, 4-3, and defeated No. 4 Central Connecticut State, 8-5, in the first day of the 2011 Northeast Conference Championships. The Bobcats improve to 31-26 overall and continue NEC Tournament play on Saturday, May 14 at 11:45 a.m. against either Robert Morris or Sacred Heart at the North Athletic Complex.

Junior pitcher Heather Schwartzburg (Mission Viejo, Calif.) pitched six innings for Quinnipiac against the Pioneers. The 2011 NEC Softball Pitcher of the Year struck out five Sacred Heart batters and allowed six hits. Six Bobcats each contributed a hit in the loss, while Paolucci led the team with two runs scored.

Quinnipiac freshman pitcher Emily O'Keefe (Southington, Conn.) took her fourth win of the year after pitching 6.1 innings against the CCSU Blue Devils. Freshman hurler Katie Alfiere (Beacon Falls, Conn.) started the game and faced eight CCSU batters. Paolucci led Quinnipiac as she went 3-for-3 with three runs scored and three RBI, while Duffy went 3-for-5 with one run scored and two RBI. In game one, Quinnipiac took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning. After freshman Jordan Paolucci (Lake Mary, Fla.) walked, junior second baseman Jacqueline Ristow (Seal Beach, Calif.) reached on a fielder's choice. Both Ristow and Paolucci advanced on a Sacred Heart throwing error. Paolucci scored the Bobcats' first run of the game on the throw.

Sacred Heart answered with two runs in the bottom of the third to take a 2-1 lead over the Bobcats. With two outs on the inning, Pioneers sophomore Nicole Sidor singled up the middle to drive in junior Liz Tsipouras and freshman Jade Bowins. The Pioneers increased its advantage, 3-1, as senior centerfielder Taylor Froelich drove in sophomore catcher Melissa Tobin on a single to center field.

The Bobcats came back and tied the game at three runs apiece in the top of the sixth. Paolucci, the 2011 NEC Rookie of the Year, led off the inning with a single up the middle. Ristow then singled to the shortstop, followed by a Mina Duffy (Piedmont, Calif.) single to right center, which drove in Paolucci from second base. After junior Alex Murray (Milford, Mass.) entered the game to pinch run for Duffy, she stole second and Ristow stole home to tie the game.

In the bottom of the sixth, Sacred Heart's Tobin scored on a Quinnipiac throwing error for the 4-3 win over the Bobcats.

In the first elimination game of the NEC Tournament, the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils took an early 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning as junior Rebecca Mussatti scored a run and sophomore Kelsey Barlow hit a three-run homer down the left field line.

Quinnipiac responded with two runs in the bottom of the second inning to narrow the gap, 4-2. Paolucci led off the inning with a single to second base and advanced to second on a passed ball. After Ristow recorded the inning's first out, Duffy singled up the middle to drive in Paolucci from second base. The next run was scored by Duffy after Kortney Kesses singled to left center.

In the bottom of the third, sophomore shortstop Alex Alba (Sylmar, Calif.) homered to left center. The game was then setback due to a three-hour rain delay until the 7 p.m. mark.

With two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning, sophomore Lauren Salgado (Covina, Calif.) singled down the left field line to keep the Bobcats alive. Alba then reached on a fielding error by Central Connecticut State. Paolucci then hit her 15th home run of the season to left center, giving Quinnipiac its first lead of the game, 6-4.

With one out in the fifth inning, Quinnipiac junior centerfielder Christy Cabrera (Reno, Nev.) hit a RBI single up the middle to drive in senior captain Joelle Jacobsen (Flemington, N.J.) from second base.

The Bobcats' offense continued to rally as the team increased its game total to 15 hits in the bottom of the sixth. With one out on the inning, Paolucci reached first as she was hit by a pitch. Ristow then singled to right field and Paolucci advanced to second. Duffy followed with a single to center field, driving in Paolucci for Quinnipiac's 8-4 lead entering the top of the seventh inning. The Blue Devils added a run by senior Erica Koehler in the bottom of the seventh, but were unable to come back.

With the 8-5 win, the Bobcats advance to tomorrow's elimination game at 11:45 a.m. against either Robert Morris or Sacred Heart. The game will be played at Robert Morris' North Athletic Complex in Moon Township, Pa.