No. 2 Quinnipiac Faces No. 3 LIU Brooklyn At 2012 NEC Softball Championships

2012 NEC Softball Tournament Headquarters
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2012 Northeast Conference Softball Championships
hosted by Robert Morris University
North Athletic Complex – Moon Township, Pa. – May 10-12, 2012
No. 1 Robert Morris University Colonials (34-20, 15-5 NEC)
No. 2 Quinnipiac University Bobcats (30-16, 13-7 NEC)
No. 3 LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds (22-33, 13-7 NEC)
No. 4 Monmouth University Hawks (24-18, 12-8 NEC)

Game 1
No. 2 Quinnipiac University Bobcats (30-16, 13-7 NEC) vs.
No. 3 LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds (22-33, 13-7 NEC)
Thursday, May 10 – 11:30 a.m.

Tournament Time
The second seeded Quinnipiac University softball team (30-16, 13-7 NEC) travels to Moon Township, Pa. to play in its third consecutive Northeast Conference Softball Championships this weekend. The Bobcats will first play No. 3 LIU Brooklyn (22-33, 13-7 NEC) on Thursday, May 10 at 11:30 a.m. at the North Athletic Complex.

Multimedia
Live stats and video for the 2012 NEC Softball Tournament will be made available by clicking on the appropriate links on the Quinnipiac softball schedule on the Official Website of Quinnipiac Athletics, www.QuinnipiacBobcats.com. Fans can listen and watch all of this weekend’s games by visiting northeastconference.tv. Craig D’Amico and Danny Breslauer have the call for the NEC webcasts.

Tournament Participants
In addition to Quinnipiac and LIU Brooklyn, this year’s NEC Softball Championships will feature the top-seeded Robert Morris University Colonials (34-20, 15-5 NEC) and the No. 4 Monmouth University Hawks (24-18, 12-8 NEC). The Colonials and Hawks will square off in the first round of tournament play on Thursday, May 10, following the Bobcats against the Blackbirds.

The Format
The championship will consist of a four-team, double-elimination tournament comprised of six or seven games, if necessary, over three days, May 10-12.  The top four teams based on regular season conference winning percentage have qualified for the NEC Tournament. This weekend’s NEC champion will go on to compete at NCAA regionals.

Scouting LIU Brooklyn
The Blackbirds enter the weekend as the number-three seed at 13-7 in league play. In its most recent contests, LIU split a league doubleheader against Mount St. Mary’s on May 5. The Blackbirds earned a 5-4 win in game one, but fell, 4-3, in the second outing. LIU Brooklyn’s Karina Cervantes leads the team with 44 hits and 29 runs scored, while junior Nichole Toven posts a team-leading batting average (.319), slugging percentage (.507) and on-base percentage (.434). Freshman infielder Paris Shipp paces the Blackbirds with 35 RBI. LIU has pitched three different Blackbirds throughout its 2012 campaign, including junior Megan Sheaf, who leads the team with a .314 ERA and .248 opponent batting average. Veteran Sarah Reynolds has made 30 starts this season and pitched 18 complete games, while leading the Blackbirds with 102 strikeouts. Red-shirt sophomore Cassie Vondrak has recorded a team-best nine wins from within the circle.

This Season Against The Blackbirds
Earlier this year, the Bobcats split a two-game set at LIU Brooklyn. The Bobcats were dealt a 5-4 loss in their first match-up, but came back to win, 13-4, in game two. Overall, the Bobcats outhit the Blackbirds, 18-13, while compiling three stolen bases. QU freshman Nikki Barba led the team as she went 4-for-8 with three RBI and two runs scored on the afternoon. Senior Mina Duffy also contributed three RBI, went 3-for-8 while scoring three runs. Senior Heather Schwartzburg pitched seven innings for the QU victory, fanning six batters along the way.

All-Time Against LIU
Quinnipiac holds an all-time Division I record of 4-31 against LIU Brooklyn, dating back to the 1999 season. Prior to earning a league split with LIU this season, the Bobcats dropped both games of a NEC doubleheader against the Blackbirds at the QU Softball Field last year. QU was shut out, 1-0, in game one and fell, 11-6, in the second outing of the day on April 16, 2011.

A Look At The League Leader
Top-seeded Robert Morris hosts its second straight NEC Softball Tournament after leading the conference with a 15-5 mark during the 2012 regular season. The Colonials have won their last three contests. The team is led by Nicole Sleith, as she’s pitched over 200 innings in her rookie campaign. The freshman has made 30 starts, pitching 25 complete games, while leading the team in ERA (1.60) and strikeouts (227) this year. Sarah Capp ranks first for Robert Morris with a .362 batting average, 59 hits and 42 RBI, while Jaci Timko has scored a team-leading 33 runs. Timko also paces RMU with seven stolen bases. Earlier this season, the Bobcats split a doubleheader with the Colonials at home. 

What’s Happening With The Hawks
Monmouth has clinched the No. 4 seed in postseason play at 12-8 in the conference standings. The Hawks are on a seven-game win streak, five of which were NEC contests.  Kaitie Schumacher leads the team with a .391 batting average, .687 slugging percentage and .470 on-base percentage. Schumacher also paces the Hawks with 34 RBI, while Christine Scheer has recorded a team-best 49 hits, 91 total bases and 32 runs scored. Together, Schumacher and Scheer have compiled 19 homeruns. MU’s Lauren Sulick posts a team-leading .266 ERA and 13 wins from within the circle, while Alissa Schoelkopf has struck out 73 opponents. Earlier this year, Quinnipiac split a pair of games at Monmouth in March, recording a 6-5 win and 4-1 loss in the NEC series.

Tournament History
The Bobcats hold a 6-11 record in the NEC Softball Tournament. Last season, Quinnipiac went 2-1 in the Championships to compete in the final round. However, the game was unable to be played in its entirety due to poor weather conditions. As a result, Sacred Heart was crowned the 2011 NEC Softball Champion based on its undefeated 2-0 record in tournament play. The Bobcats are 1-6 all-time in tournament history against their first opponent this weekend, LIU Brooklyn. QU also holds a 1-2 mark against Robert Morris and 2-1 record against Monmouth in the NEC Softball Championships.

Last Time Out
In its most recent outings, Quinnipiac secured the number two seed in this year’s NEC Tournament as it split a pair of league games with Saint Francis (Pa.) on May 5 at the QU Softball Field. After falling, 3-0, in game one, the Bobcats came back to win, 4-0, over the Red Flash. The Bobcats out-hit the Red Flash, 17-to-9, and were led by senior Christy Cabrera as she went 4-for-7 in the two-game set. Freshman Nikki Barba and senior Mina Duffy each contributed three hits, while junior Alex Alba recorded her seventh homerun of the season. Senior Heather Schwartzburg picked up her 18th win of the season as she saw seven innings from within the circle. The starting pitcher also matched a season-best 12 strikeouts against Saint Francis (Pa.).

What A Year
Senior Heather Schwartzburg was recently recognized as Quinnipiac’s Female Athlete of the Year at the 2011-12 Quinnipiac University Athletics and Recreation Awards program at the TD Bank Sports Center on Wednesday, May 2. Schwartzburg will go down as one of the most dominant pitchers in Quinnipiac and Northeast Conference softball history as she ranks first all-time at QU in career wins, innings pitched and strikeouts. Schwartzburg flourished last year in her junior campaign which led to a 2011 NEC Pitcher of the Year selection. The season included 23 wins and 296 strikeouts, figures that place her first all-time in the two single-season categories. Schwartzburg turned around and replicated a stellar 2011 campaign with a similar season in 2012. With the NEC Tournament left to play, she has a team-leading 190 strikeouts, 18 wins, a 1.47 earned run average, and .164 opponent batting average.

Alba’s Athlete Of The Month Accolade
Junior Alex Alba was named Quinnipiac Female Athlete of the Month for April. The Bobcats’ starting shortstop posted a .333 batting average as she matched a team-leading 23 hits. Alba started in all 21 contests during the month, also leading Quinnipiac with 43 total bases and 20 RBI, while contributing 15 runs scored. The Sylmar, Calif. native recorded a team-high five home runs and five doubles throughout April. She also was successful on three steal attempts, while recording a .387 on base percentage and pacing the Bobcats with a .623 slugging percentage. Alba only made two errors as she made 37 putouts and 46 assists from the infield.

NEC Weekly Honors
Sophomore Katie Alfiere was named NEC Pitcher of the Week, as announced by the league office on Monday, May 7. Alfiere made two appearances and one start last week, recoding a 1-0 record from within the circle. She pitched a team-leading 13 2/3 scoreless innings. Alfiere scattered nine hits and earned four strikeouts while holding opponent batters to .191 from the plate. The sophomore also contributed two hits, one run and one RBI as the designated player in two outings. Alfiere now stands at 7-2 on the season and posts the team’s second best ERA (2.07).

Bobcats In The NCAA Record Books
Earlier this season, Quinnipiac matched a NCAA record in consecutive home runs as the Bobcats hit four straight homers in the first game of a NEC doubleheader against Sacred Heart on April 1. The Bobcats’ Alex Alba started it off with a three-run homer, followed by three straight home runs by Mina Duffy, Katie Alfiere, and Nikki Barba, all in the first inning of play. QU went on to win, 12-7.

RPI Rankings
As of May 17, the Bobcats held the second-best position amongst their NEC competitors, 112th, in the NCAA Division I Softball RPI Rankings.

Stealing Stats
Quinnipiac leads the conference with a combined 41 stolen bases on the year. The team’s 52 steal attempts are also tied for second in the league standings. Senior Ashley Heiberger and junior Lauren Salgado have each collected a team-high seven stolen bases this season.

Dangerous Defense
The Bobcats’ .971 fielding percentage paces the conference and ranks in the top-35 of the NCAA standings. Quinnipiac has only made 39 errors, while its opponents have recorded 65 errors this season. Additionally, QU leads the NEC in fewest hits allowed (245) and fewest runs allowed (125).

Perfect Pitching
Quinnipiac leads the NEC in several pitching categories, including team earned run average (2.39) and opponent batting average (.216). The Bobcats also rank fourth amongst their league opponents in strikeouts (261).

A Stellar Season
Quinnipiac softball is one of four NEC teams to have reached 30 wins this year. The Bobcats stand behind Robert Morris, who recorded a league-leading 34 wins.

A Trio Of Captains
Quinnipiac has been led by each of its three senior captains this year, including Heather Schwartzburg, Christy Cabrera and Ashley Heiberger.

Leading Lady
QU’s starting shortstop Alex Alba has been one of the Bobcats’ most consistent players from the plate this season. She currently leads the team with a .343 batting average (48-140), while ranking first in total bases (85), doubles (14) and slugging percentage (.604). Alba also shares a team-best 28 RBI with senior Mina Duffy, while she stands second with 21 runs scored.

Close To 1,000
Veteran pitcher Heather Schwartzburg, Quinnipiac’s all-time career and single-season leader in strikeouts has compiled 947 career strikeouts. Last year, Schwartzburg broke the program and NEC record for single-season strikeouts with 296 during the 2011 season.

QU’s Catcher Is A Keeper
Senior Ashley Heiberger has helped Quinnipiac rank second in the conference in ‘caught stealing by’ (20) as she’s caught a league-leading 19 opponents stealing this season. She’s also proven herself to be one of the toughest members of the QU club as she’s been hit by a pitch 23 times in 2012, the most of all NEC players.

Facts From The Plate
Quinnipiac has outhit its opponents, 303-to-245, in its 2012 campaign. Senior Christy Cabrera and junior Alex Alba have each contributed 48 hits this year, while Alba and senior Mina Duffy have each recorded a team-high 28 RBI and seven homeruns. Cabrera’s 27 runs scored also pace the Bobcats.

Contact: Lindsay Oliveri, lmoliveri@quinnipiac.edu