by Sean Begin
The Central Connecticut softball team was looking for a fast start to conference play this season. Thanks to a sweep of Sacred Heart on Saturday, and some timely weather postponing all other Northeast Conference games, the Blue Devils now sit firmly in first place.
“It’s huge,” said acting head coach Breanne Gleason. “In this conference, with us dropping two teams, every win is going to count. I told the girls we have to go at every single team.”
“We want to host it here, we want to play here, and we want to make it to the tournament,” added senior Laura Messina. “And that means we have to win every game. No let up.”
Messina pitched both games for the Blue Devils (12-9, 2-0 NEC), shutting out Sacred Heart (9-10, 0-2 NEC) in the first game 5-0 and holding off a Pioneer rally to win 4-3 in the second game.
“We did a great job of coming out with a lot of energy,” said Gleason. “That first game we played really well; we were solid. That second game we were a little shaky but Sacred Heart came out swinging.”
The Blue Devil’s big hit in the first game came in the third inning, off the bat of freshman Alexis Debrosse who hit a two-run home run to right field that scored senior Tessa Brown.
“She swings hard every single time,” said Gleason of Debrosse. “As a freshman, to step up like that is huge. She’s not up there thinking ‘I’m a freshman, someone else can do it,’ she wants to get it done.”
Debrosse scored the previous inning, coming home from third on a sacrifice bunt from freshman Sami Duffy. A Sacred Heart error on a grounder from senior Arielle Bruno allowed sophomore Hannah Cooper to score the fourth run of the game.
Brown started the scoring for the Blue Devils in the bottom of the first when she doubled home Bruno, who had opened the inning with a single.
Messina held the Pioneers to just two hits over seven innings, fanning eight in the shutout.
“I think our team looked amazing,” said Messina of the Blue Devil’s first series at home. “It’s nice to come back after a bad weekend and know that our team is going to come up big with runs and plays.”
Central held off a fifth-inning rally from Sacred Heart to take the second game, as well.
Messina opened the inning with a walk before getting Jenn Robillard to fly out. Andrea Sidor followed up the out with a double to set the Pioneers up with runners on second and third and one out.
A sac bunt secured the second out but scored the runner from third, pulling the Pioneers within two. Messina walked and hit the next two batters to load the bases. Her third walk of the inning pulled Sacred Heart within one.
“That first game she came out, she looked rested, she looked good,” said Gleason of Messina’s day. “That second game she got in a little bit of a jam but I think that’s a credit to the Sacred Heart hitters. They made adjustments and our defense had to make the plays and they did.”
Messina ended the threat by getting Kelyn Fillmore to ground out and finished the game without allowing another base runner. Messina finished the game allowing three runs on four hits, walking and striking out three.
“Just trusting my pitches and trusting my defense,” said Messina of how she pitched out of the fifth inning jam. “I know everyone is going to make a play; like Eileen made an awesome play. I know that’s what’s going to happen when they put the ball in play.”
The Blue Devils scored all four of their runs in the fourth. Sophomore Eileen Purcell started the scoring by singling home fellow sophomore Evie Rentzel. Cooper picked up a pair of RBIs to give Central the lead, on a single to right that scored Purcell and Debrosse.
A balk from Sacred Heart pitcher Kaci Wentworth scored Cooper from third for the Blue Devil’s fourth and subsequent winning run of the game.
“That second game we were a little shaky but Sacred Heart came out swinging. And they did a great job. They’re a tough team,” said Gleason. “That second game is what the NEC is going to be all about. We have to practice situations like that for later on.”
Sunday’s double header at Fairleigh Dickinson was postponed, so the Blue Devils will return to NEC action again this weekend when they host two double headers: LIU-Brooklyn on Saturday and Wagner on Sunday.