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Cranking through conference play
As the old saying goes, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
After a very difficult start to the season, the Bobcats have rallied back into contention in the Northeast Conference. Since April 7, Quinnipiac is 9-4, which includes a seven-game win streak during that stretch. Quinnipiac’s hot play has given it an 8-4 conference record, good for fourth place in the NEC.
This season, in particular, has a twist to it. After the Hamden area was pelted with record-breaking snowfall, Quinnipiac was forced to cancel its first four games of the season.
“I really wanted to play,” sophomore infielder Nikki Barba said. “It kind of put us down a little because we were so hoping to play and get out there and be out on the field and compete.”
It did not get any easier for Quinnipiac from there. After the first two months of the season, the Bobcats had a 7-23 overall record. However, Quinnipiac head coach Germaine Fairchild was not concerned with the team’s record.
“Just because you don’t win doesn’t mean you’re off to a rough start,” Fairchild said. “We spend all of our time preparing on a gym floor and we go south to play against teams that have been practicing outside on dirt for days and weeks ahead of us and they’ve played more games than us.”
It’s no surprise that Quinnipiac’s season turnaround started after the spring tournaments ended. Once the Bobcats returned home from their final tournament in Clearwater, Fla., they were able to regroup and prepare for the season ahead.
“We had an idea of what we were doing wrong and then the different pieces of the game started coming together,” senior Alex Alba said. “It’s all starting to mesh together. We have to get used to playing with each other, the weather, the field.”
One of the keys for the Bobcats’ run as of late has been pitching. The pitching staff features two freshmen, Nicole Gubellini and Sydney Robey, and sophomore Hannah Lindsley. While talented, the three were very short on experience. As the season progressed, Quinnipiac’s young pitching staff has settled in and improved dramatically, which was highlighted when Gubellini shut out Sacred Heart.
“As a freshman, you go out and pitch a shutout in one of your first legitimate starts against a conference opponent,” Fairchild said. “That was a huge boost for us.”
During their seven-game win streak, the Bobcats won four games by coming from behind. They have outscored their opponents 23-8 in the sixth and seventh innings this season.
“I don’t think our team ever gives up toward the end. We could be down five runs in the fifth inning and they’ll be sitting in the huddle like, ‘Oh come on, five runs, that’s nothing,’” Alba said.
Quinnipiac’s resilient attitude has been on display throughout the season. In a loss to Harvard the Bobcats scored three runs in the fifth to rally back from a deficit before the game was called due to darkness. Quinnipiac also fought back from a poor start in conference to put themselves in position for a playoff spot.
Last weekend, Quinnipiac split a doubleheader with Fairleigh Dickinson. Game 1 saw the Bobcats fall 4-1, yet Game 2 was a different story. Lindsley went the distance, giving up just three hits through eight innings pitched. Jordan Paolucci came through in the bottom of the eighth, launching a walk-off grand slam for 4-0 victory.
“This is a good split,” Fairchild said. “Fairleigh Dickinson has beaten every team in the conference they’ve played so far and I expect big things from them. We feel good getting out of here with a win.”
Quinnipiac aims to continue its conference success on April 27 in a doubleheader vs. Bryant.
“We knew if we want to keep playing for the postseason we have to keep winning,” Barba said.