MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. – The Quinnipiac University softball team's quest for its first NCAA Tournament bid came to a close on Saturday afternoon, as the #2 Bobcats fell short to #3 LIU Brooklyn, 10-5, in the Northeast Conference Tournament Finals at Robert Morris in Moon Township, Pa. With the loss, QU concludes its season with a 34-18 record, marking its second straight 30-win campaign and third straight with at least 25 wins.
"I could not be more proud of this team for what they have accomplished this year," said Head Coach Germaine Fairchild. "They came to the NEC Championships and gave themselves an experience they will never forget, fighting back through the loser's bracket to make it to the final game. Our three captains have left the game of softball better than they found it through their leadership, unparalleled effort, and true love of the game and their team."
Facing a pitcher who hadn't allowed a run in her first two outings in the tournament, the Bobcats wasted little time getting to LIU's Cassie Vondrak. Christy Cabrera (West Sacramento, Calif.) led off the game with a long double to left field, and then moved over to third on a sacrifice bunt from Jacquie Ristow (Seal Beach, Calif.). Coach Fairchild took over from there, calling for a suicide squeeze with her #3 hitter in the batters' box. Alex Alba (Sylmar, Calif.) dropped a perfect bunt down the first base line, allowing Cabrera to slide across home plate for a 1-0 lead.
After a scoreless second, LIU Brooklyn was next to find the scoring column in the third inning. The Blackbirds filled the bases with a pair of walks and a Bobcats' miscue in the field, bringing the heart of the lineup to the plate with nobody out. Paris Shipp lined a two-run single to right center and Nichole Toven followed with an RBI-single up the middle, putting the Blackbirds in front, 3-1.
Quinnipiac refused to go away though, as the Bobcats posted a three-spot of their own in the top of the fifth inning. Lauren Salgado (Covina, Calif.) and Cabrera sparked a two-out rally with back-to-back singles, bringing Ristow to the dish, with Alba on deck. Ristow calmly stepped in and laced an RBI-single to right field and Alba followed with a two-run double over the right fielders' head for a 4-3 Bobcat lead.
The Bobcats' advantage was short-lived however, as the Blackbirds battled back in their ensuing at-bats. LIU once again loaded the bases, this time at the strength of three singles. With two outs in the inning, Emily Kakuska launched a two-run double to left field, putting the Blackbirds back on top, 5-4. Megan Sheaf then stepped up to the plate and added two more with a single over the head of Bridget Figmic (Stratford, Conn.) at third base. Katie Alfiere (Beacon Falls, Conn.) worked out of trouble, keeping QU within striking distance.
The game seemed far from over when Quinnipiac quickly loaded the bases in the top of the sixth inning. With Nikki Barba (San Diego, Calif.), Ashley Heiberger (Sioux Falls, S.D.) and Kourtney Kesses (Woodbridge, Conn.) aboard, Figmic approached the dish and lined a shot to center field for a sacrifice fly; however, LIU's relay caught Heiberger at third base for a double play. LIU's relief pitcher, Megan Sheaf, worked out of trouble to end the threat, keeping the Bobcats behind by two runs.
Unfortunately, LIU's bats stayed hot en route to three more runs in the bottom half of the sixth inning. The Blackbirds recorded four hits in the frame to open a five-run lead, and an insurmountable deficit for the Bobcats to overcome. Sheaf closed out the seventh inning, lifting LIU Brooklyn to its 13th NEC Tournament title.
Bobcat pitchers Heather Schwartzburg (Mission Viejo, Calif.), Alfiere and Cabrera filled the circle for the seven-inning affair. The trio allowed 12 hits and struck out two opposing batters in the losing effort.
Offensively, Cabrera registered multiple hits again, finishing 2-for-3 with a run scored. Alba collected three RBI's on the day, while Figmic and Ristow accounted for the other two.
During the awards presentation, Schwartzburg, Cabrera and Heiberger were named to the All-Tournament Team for their outstanding performances throughout the weekend.
For more information regarding the Quinnipiac University softball program, please visit www.QuinnipiacBobcats.com.
2012 NEC Softball All-Tournament Team
Emily Hoham, LIU, MVP
Emily Kakuska, LIU
Cassie Vondrak, LIU
Heather Schwartzburg, QU
Christy Cabrera, QU
Ashley Heiberger, QU
Nicole Slieth, RMU
Jaci Timko, RMU
Chelsea Paprocki, MU
Contact: Tony Distasio; firstname.lastname@example.org