Softball gears up for NEC play

By on April 1, 2010

Great pitching and solid defense win games, which is one of the main reasons the Quinnipiac University softball team was picked in the preseason coaches’ poll to finish fifth in the NEC.

With 15 players returning from last season, including eight seniors, the Bobcats are off to an 11-15 start with impressive out-of-conference wins against Jacksonville State and Pittsburgh. The Bobcats played their first two conference games on Sunday, losing both to last year’s NEC champs, Long Island University.

The Bobcats have been led by sophomore pitcher Heather Schwartzburg. Schwartzburg won the 2009 NEC Rookie of the Year and is picking up right where she left off, leading the NEC with a 1.11 ERA and 142 strikeouts. Schwartzburg is also second in the NEC in wins (7) and games finished (7).

The slow start in conference play doesn’t have head coach Germaine Fairchild worried, due to her team’s preparation in out-of-conference play.

“We play tougher competition so that when we get to conference play we are ready and can excel against some of the pitching we see in conference,” Fairchild said.

Offense is an area that must improve for the Bobcats if they wish to play well in conference, the team only has a combined batting average of .209 through 26 games.

“We are a little undisciplined at the plate right now, which is causing us to not be able to challenge defenses to make outs,” Fairchild said.

One reason the Bobcats have struggled offensively is the loss of senior captain Christine Bourdeau, who will sit out the season due to injury. As a junior, Bourdeau led the Bobcats in nearly every offensive category, including batting average and total bases.

“It’s something that’s an extra challenge for our team to overcome, Christine represented at least a quarter of our offense,” Fairchild said.

Freshmen Alejandra Alba and Bridget Figmic have stepped up at shortstop in place of Bourdeau.

“Alejandra has been doing a great job at shortstop and Bridget has done great as well when she gets in there,” Fairchild said. “But that’s the neat thing about sports; when someone goes down other people get an opportunity to step up.”

A bright spot offensively for the Bobcats has been second baseman Alex Murray, who leads the team in batting average (.313) and slugging percentage (.458). Murray is also in the top five in seven other offensive categories.

One player expected to progress throughout the season is freshman left fielder Lauren Selgado, who broke up a no-hitter Sunday against Long Island University.

“Lauren has been doing really well in the sixth hole for us,” Fairchild said. “That’s big when you have a freshman who can step up and break up a no-hitter from a senior pitcher in our conference who has been the pitcher of the year before.”

With nine conference games remaining, the Bobcats will need to keep improving if they wish to make the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

“I believe wholeheartedly in our team,” Fairchild said. “I’ve been working with this group of seniors for over three years, mostly as starters, and we have a pretty good understanding of what our potential is.”

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