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by Sean Begin

The Central Connecticut softball team, following the weekend, has played in three Northeast Conference double headers. All of them have been swept.

But this weekend’s games against LIU-Brooklyn on Saturday and Wagner on Sunday did not see the Blue Devils celebrating at the end of both days.

The Blackbirds (13-24, 2-2 NEC) took both games from Central (15-11, 4-2 NEC) on Saturday, blanking the Blue Devils in game one 4-0 before winning in extras — 4-3 — in game two.

Central had edged LIU-Brooklyn in the NEC preseason poll by a 5-4 vote to be named number one heading into the season.

Central responded against Wagner (13-17, 0-4 NEC) on Sunday, however, taking game one 2-1 before putting together a shut out of their own; winning 4-0 in game two.

“We didn’t really put it together,” said acting head coach Breanne Gleason of the team’s performance on Saturday. “We had a few good innings. Our defense was great. Laura threw well. We just couldn’t put it together on offense.”

The Blue Devils were held to just five hits in game one by LIU’s Cassie Vondrak who earned the win in both games on Saturday. Central had runners on second and third in both the first and third innings but failed to capitalize on the opportunity. Junior Kat Malcolm led the team with two hits.

LIU jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the first inning of game two. Central took the lead on a two-run home run from Malcolm in the bottom of the third inning. LIU took the lead back with two runs in the top of the fifth.

But an RBI single from senior Tessa Brown that scored sophomore Evie Rentzel in the bottom of the inning tied the score, leading to extras. LIU scored the winning run in the top of the eighth and Vondrak pitched a 1-2-3 inning to finish the sweep.

“Against a really good team like LIU, if you don’t put it together, you’re not going to win. It just wasn’t our day,” said Gleason.

Junior Laura Messina took the losses in both games. She struck out six in the first game but gave up a home run and only fanned three in the second game.

The Blue Devils came back Sunday looking to right the offensive ship against the Seahawks of Wagner.

In game one on Sunday, Messina shut the Seahawks down, making the two runs the Blue Devils scored more than enough. Messina struck out 12 Wagner players in the contest. The only run came on a Wagner home run in the seventh to the first batter of the inning. Messina got the next batter to line out and she struck out the final two to seal the 2-1 Blue Devil win.

Freshman Alexis Debrosse knocked in senior Arielle Bruno in the first for the game’s first run. Rentzel scored the eventual winning run on a double in the sixth to score Malcolm.

Central opened the scoring early again in game two. Debrosse started things off by singling in Bruno.  Sophomore Eileen Purcell followed that up with a single to left that scored Rentzel.

The two runs proved more than enough for Messina who struck out eight to bring her total on the day to 20. She allowed six hits while holding the Seahawks scoreless.

“I feel like she — because LIU scored four runs in both games — as a pitcher she took a lot of brunt for that loss on herself,” said Gleason of Messina’s approach to Sunday’s games.

“So I think she came out today thinking if she can hold them to one or no runs that we have a way better shot. And with that mentality you can’t stop her.”

Central added a run in the fifth, on a single from Brown that scored Bruno, and another in the sixth, when senior Ashley Black scored on an error.

“We talked about stepping up and we talked about being in the box with a runner on two or three and saying ‘I’m going to get this RBI, I’m going to get this run in,’ instead of thinking that the person that’s on deck will do it,” said Gleason.

“I think they did a better job of stepping up and being the one to get that runner in today.”

Central will now hit the road for NEC play, after hosting their first three series of the year. Named preseason number one, the team now finds itself in fourth place in the conference, looking to improve.

“We’ve just got to hit one through nine. Right now, the top of our order looks pretty good; they’re getting on a lot,” said Gleason. “But we need everybody to hit. So we’re definitely going to look to spark the offense a little bit before we get to the weekend.”

Central will spend the next two weekends on the road, starting this weekend against Fairleigh Dickinson on April 12 and Bryant on April 13, both double headers.