By Derek Turner
Before the season started, softball Head Coach Jeff Franquet said that there would be multiple freshmen starting this year and knew they would make an impact; Evie Rentzel has embraced her spot and ran away with it.
With the Blue Devils trailing 1-0 early after Lauren Guy of Bryant led off the game with a towering homerun down the right field line, Renztel, the freshman left fielder stepped into the box with two outs and the bases loaded. Next thing you knew the Blue Devils were leading 4-1. Rentzel deposited the ball just over the right field fence for her third homerun of the season and team-leading 19 runs batted in. She would add one more in the second game of the day.
“I was just going for a single,” said Rentzel. “Honestly, just a ball I could drive.”
The very next inning Stephanie Chotkevys was hit by a pitch and was pinch run for by Sarah Emery who advanced to second on a passed ball. Arielle Bruno followed with a double off the base of the left field fence driving in Emery.
Both teams were held scoreless for the next three innings, but in the sixth CCSU extended their lead. Alyssa McCoart led off with a walk and was pinch run for by Katie Schmidt. Gianna Sandstrom reached on a fielder’s choice and then both runners advanced on the sacrifice bunt by Bruno. Nicole Springer walked with two outs to load the bases. Tessa Brown grounded to the third baseman, but the throw to first got away, Schmidt and Sandstrom scored. The Bulldogs made a pitching change. Katelin Saunders balked as she tried to deliver her first pitch allowing Springer to jog home for an 8-1 Central lead.
Laura Messina started both games of the double header as she has done for most of her college career. In game two she struck out four of the first five batters she faced, including the 300th of her career for the first out of the second inning. With 14 strikeouts on the day, the sophomore has 303 for her career, just 10 shy of the CCSU career record.
Sandstrom walked with two outs in the third and the high-powered offense would do the rest. Bruno followed with a single and then Kat Malcolm drove in Sandstrom with a single of her own through the right side. Springer added two more with a long double to left center and the CCSU homerun king Kelsey Barlow blasted her third of the season and 22nd of her career over the left centerfield fence to give the Blue Devils a 6-0 lead.
“Right now it’s just about getting better and improving; one through nine are starting to swing the bat pretty well,” said Franquet.
Springer led off the fifth with an infield single when the Bryant second baseman made an errant throw from her knees. The New Britain native advanced to second on a wild pitch and was joined on the base paths by Brown who walked. Kelsey Barlow reached on an error setting up another big situation for Rentzel. The left fielder finished the best day of her career thus far with a single through the left side driving in Springer. Brittany Ernst, who pinch ran for Brown, scored on a wild pitch giving the Blue Devils an 8-0 win after the five inning mercy rule was applied; the seventh such win for CCSU this season.
“When everybody starts to hit, it’s easier to hit…hitting is contagious,” said Rentzel.
The Blue Devils defense behind Messina did not allow a Bulldog base-runner past second base for the entire game.
“If Laura’s throwing well in that 8-foot circle, we’re in pretty good shape,” said Franquet. “She’s confident, the team’s confident, the team’s high energy, they believe in the process and they believe we can get it done.”
Last Wednesday, the Blue Devils defeated Holy Cross in an out-of-conference contest by scores of 2-0 and 8-0 (5 Inning Mercy Rule). Bruno combined to go 3-4 in the double-header with two doubles, two runs scored and an RBI. Messina pitched game one for her 11th career shutout, which broke the school record. Springer threw well in game two allowing only three hits and struck out eight in the win.
On April 1, Tessa Brown was named NEC Player of the Week and Laura Messina co-Pitcher of the Week for their performances. Brown went 6-9 at the plate with a double, two runs scored and three RBIs along with four walks. Messina registered three wins, with two of them being shutouts, a 0.37 earned run average and 27 strikeouts.
The Blue Devils return to play this weekend at home with a double-header vs. Sacred Heart on Saturday at 1 p.m. and two more Sunday vs. Saint Francis (PA) beginning at noon.