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Softball sweeps ‘must-win’ games
After the Quinnipiac softball team was swept in its doubleheader against Long Island University on Saturday, head coach Germaine Fairchild told her team something that she very rarely ever says.
That Sunday’s games against NEC-leading Central Connecticut State were must-win games.
Her team responded, sweeping the doubleheader behind a two-hit complete game shutout from Heather Schwartzburg for a 5-0 win in the first game, and a dramatic come-from-behind 8-3 victory in the second game.
Freshman Jordan Paolucci hit the game-tying home run in the fifth inning of Game 2 before the Bobcats exploded for a five-run sixth. Alex Alba went a combined 4-for-8 with 3 RBIs and a home run.
“Maybe I learned I need to put their backs against the wall, or tell them it is against the wall, because they sure responded,” Fairchild said. “They’re a veteran group who can handle that and I think it’s something I learned about my team.”
With Quinnipiac (24-18, 8-4 NEC) trailing 3-1 in the fifth inning of its second game, Paolucci stepped to the plate with a runner on third, representing the tying run.
Paolucci, who has a team-high nine home runs, worked a full count on pitcher Elizabeth Montemurro. After fouling off several pitches, she drove a tape-measuring shot into right-center field for a game-tying two-run home run, sending the Bobcats bench into a frenzy and shifting the momentum to their side.
“I knew the team needed a hit and needed to score so I just channeled all my energy to make sure we scored,” Paolucci said. “[After the home run] I felt like we were back in this game and it was the spark we needed to jump all over this pitcher, and we did.”
In the sixth inning, Kortney Kesses led off being hit by a pitch and pinch-hitter Alex Murray reached on an error by the second baseman. With the go-ahead run in scoring position, Jessica Amenda grounded back to Montemurro, who threw the ball away from the first baseman, allowing Kesses to score the go-ahead run.
The Bobcats added four more runs in the inning to take a commanding 8-3 lead into the final frame.
Schwartzburg closed the game in the seventh, pitching the final four innings of scoreless relief to earn her second win of the day.
In the first game, the Bobcats jumped on the board early with a three-run home run from Alba in the first inning. Schwartzburg then kept the CCSU (19-14-1, 6-4) hitters off balance for the next seven innings, allowing just two hits while striking out six batters to propel the Bobcats to a 5-0 victory.
“Heather is willing to give this team whatever it needs,” Fairchild said. “She would put on catcher’s gear if that’s what the team needed. I asked her between games how many [pitches] she has left, and told me however many you need.”
Photo credit: Matt Eisenberg