Category Archives: Softball

Softball Shakes Off Rust

by Sean Begin

With two tournaments in Florida and Virginia to open the season, the Central Connecticut softball team used the warmer Southern climates to help thaw out their offense, returning to New Britain Sunday evening with a respectable 5-3 record.

“In Florida we were pressing a lot at the plate,” said acting head coach Breanne Gleason. “Since it was our first games [of the season] we were pretty pumped and I think that showed at the plate that our heads were a little bit all over the place.”

The softball team opened its season with five games over three days at the University of Southern Florida’s Under Armour Invitational, starting on Feb. 28.

That day the team split a double-header, defeating Campbell University 4-0 before falling 4-1 to Georgia State. The team split another double-header the next day, losing 3-2 to Toledo before blanking Stanford 5-0. They finished with a single game, a 4-1 loss to Oakland, on Sunday March 2.

“We played well for our first time outside in a very long time. We saw some really good things,” said Gleason. “Our whole pitching staff did really well, especially for their first time out.”

“We got the rust off and definitely came home with a lot of stuff to work on.”

The team, as Gleason noted, saw some solid pitching, highlighted by a pair of shutouts from senior Laura Messina, who went 2-1 on the road trip. Fellow senior Julie Marks suffered two losses at USF, despite giving up just two earned runs over 10 innings of work.

“She gets that it’s not always the pitching performance that decides the game,” said Gleason of Marks. “Sometimes you just don’t hit and that happens and that’s not the pitchers fault, it’s softball.”

The rust on offense, coupled with some ill-timed fielding mistakes, proved to be enough to bring Central home with a 2-3 record.

“We did have some errors at some not so great times but it was really more our hitting,” explained Gleason of the early season struggles at USF. “We had to work on stringing hits. We were stranding a lot of people on second or third base, which is not good.”

Inside the three losses the Blue Devils suffered in Florida, they stranded 21 runners on base while committing 13 errors leading to seven unearned runs. The team hit just .192 over those five games.

Thankfully, perhaps, the schedule, not unlike the baseball team, has seen some upheaval due to the last vestiges of winter.

A doubleheader at Coppin State was cancelled, as were the team’s first two games at the Hampton Tournament against Drexel and host Hampton. The lost games gave the team an extra day of practice to work out some of the kinks presented in Florida before heading to Virginia.

“We did have an extra day to practice here, which I was really happy about,” said Gleason. “We got an extra day of hitting in, which I think it showed; it helped with the three games that we played [in Virginia].”

Added Gleason: “We tried to work on staying simple when you’re at the plate, keeping everything just like it is in practice; swing hard and good things will happen. We try to work on having people on, putting that pressure on them in practice so they feel more comfortable with it in the game.”

Whether it was the extra work in practice or the rust falling away, the team exploded offensively in their contests this past weekend in Virginia.

Over three games (a double-header versus Iona and St. Bonaventure on Saturday, followed by a second match against St. Bonaventure on Sunday) the team hit .342 to raise their season average to .275, scoring at least six runs each game and breaking eight twice.

Their pitching remained as strong as in Florida, this time without the badly timed errors. Messina started and won each game in Virginia, going three to four innings in each contest before handing the ball off to the bullpen to finish.

“Laura is a rock,” said Gleason of her ace. “When she throws well good things happen for us. I sat down and we had a talk with her about setting goals for her career: what she wants when she leaves Central and I think that helps her stay focused in games.”

“Every pitcher that we have got a chance to throw this weekend [at Hampton] and they all showed they can compete and get outs, which is huge,” she added.

The pitching staff has seen a nice addition with sophomore, transfer Sarah Gaalswijk, who has pitched six scoreless innings of two hit ball for the Blue Devils.

“From the fall to now Sarah is a totally different person. She has gotten so tough,” Gleason said. “She was in a few situations where there were runners on and she had walked people but then she worked hard to get the outs for us. And that’s all you can ask. She’s doing her job and we feel comfortable with her on the mound.”

Despite the team’s struggles on offense in Florida, the bright spot for the team has been freshman Alexis Debrosse. Debrosse is hitting .381 with two homeruns, eight RBIs and five runs scored so far this season. Her torrid start has earned her consecutive NEC Rookie of the Week honors to start the year.

“We knew how good Lex was when she got here. She’s one of those kids that you would never know she was a freshman when you see her play,” said Gleason. “She’s a presence. She’s done a great job, especially as a freshman, to step up like that.”

Veteran leaders Kat Malcolm, a junior, and senior Arielle Bruno have continued to play the way that earned them Eastern College Athletic Conference All-Star selections last season.

Malcolm is hitting .385 with a homer and three RBIs, while Bruno, despite a low .231 average, has drawn six walks to produce a .394 on base percentage, allowing her to score a team high six runs — tied with Malcolm.

The team has drawn 24 walks this season to just 34 strikeouts, demonstrating patience at the plate that differs from their usual offensive philosophy.

“We are more of an aggressive mindset, which is kind of contradictory to how many walks we have,” explained Gleason. “But I think the girls are doing a great job of staying mentally focused because sometimes when you’re swinging at balls you’re not focused; you’re all over the place.”

The team leaves Thursday to return once more to USF — this time for USF’s Spring Break Tournament — followed by single games against both USF and the University of Florida. From there, the team will travel to Delaware for the Delaware State Tournament before kicking off NEC play with a March 29 double-header versus Sacred Heart.

“We’ve been really trying to focus on Central softball; not worrying about who we’re playing but worrying about playing our best and getting in the habit of winning,” said Gleason.

“Hopefully, these next two trips can help us get on a roll and continue that into conference.”


Through Three Head Coaches, Toke Emerges as Leader

by Sean Begin

When a student-athlete coming out of high school chooses a school to play for, they usually do so expecting to remain there for several years, earning a degree while playing a sport they love for a coach that they think can help improve their ability on the field.

But when you go through three coaches in four years, that growth can sometimes be stifled. In some cases, like Amanda Toke, you work through it, and come out a better athlete and person thanks to the time with those coaches, however brief it may be.

Toke was recruited to Central in Fall 2011 by then-coach Rachel Tringali. After the season, Kelly Nangle was hired to replace Tringali as head coach.

Two years later, Nangle was gone for Liberty University, leaving behind a lacrosse team that had a conference record of 7-2, and made the Northeast Conference tournament for the first time in program history.

“It was hard letting Coach Kelly go,” admits Toke. “Tringali got let go but Kelly chose to leave. And that was hard for us to accept, like ‘you want to leave us? We love you, you love us.'”

Nangle’s departure may have been especially hard on Toke, who said she gained the confidence needed to become one of the team leaders under Nangle’s guidance.

“[Nangle] helped me a lot because she gave me a lot more opportunities to play and prove myself,” Toke said.

The school hired current head coach Laura Campbell to replace Nangle, making her Toke’s third coach since becoming a Blue Devil. But the change hasn’t been too difficult, thanks in part to Campbell herself.

“Coach Campbell has really helped with the transition, like making us comfortable with her and her feel comfortable with us,” said Toke.

During the offseason, Campbell named Toke one of the team’s captains, a move Toke said helped boost her confidence even more, despite the position bringing her some anxiousness.

“When you’re on the field and you’re losing, its hard to get the team’s spirits up when your spirits are down as well,” said Toke of the challenges she sometimes faces as captain. “You can’t think about yourself. You have to think about the team. It can be a little difficult.”

When fellow senior Claire Healy was named co-captain before the start of the season, Toke settled further into her leadership role.

“We complement each other,” said Toke of her relationship with Healy. “Claire has been a huge help because she’s so vocal and very outgoing. [She] brings humor to the team. I’m more quiet.”

The transition from coach to coach could have proved to be difficult, especially from Nangle to Campbell, after Nangle had two years to instill her philosophies into the growing team.

Toke, however, attributes the team’s success over the last couple years to putting aside personal belief in order to embrace those philosophies championed by Nangle — and now the new ones by Campbell.

“We could have been like ‘no,’ I don’t want to listen to you. This is what works for us. We know better,'” said Toke. “But once we really accepted and didn’t reject what the coaches were saying, that’s when we were so successful, and that’s when we started working together.”

“We weren’t playing like individuals, we we’re playing as a team and setting each other up for success.”

Toke began playing lacrosse around the sixth grade. Her mother signed her up for a youth league at random, and began learning the rules with her daughter. Toke’s lacrosse career started while playing soccer and dancing, among other endeavors, but she quickly fell in love with the sport, leaving the others behind.

Her first taste of competitive play came during a summer league, but she soon joined the squad at Voorhees High School near her hometown of High Bridge, New Jersey. There, she was named First Team All-Conference for three straight years and First Team All-Area for two.

Toke describes herself as quick-of-foot on the field, but that she still needs to work on her shot selection and one-on-one defense because, as she said with emphasis, “I hate being beat.”

Besides her physical play, Toke acknowledges she still needs to be more vocal, especially on the field.

“I know people are looking to the seniors to be the vocal leaders. So I’ve got to be vocal. Little by little I try to be more encouraging,” she said.

“If I really notice something, like advice I want to give to a player, I won’t be scared to go up to them and say ‘try to tweak this, see if this works for you’ because that’s how the seniors helped me when I was an underclassmen.”

Those seniors were also part of the reason Toke chose to come to Central in the first place.

“When I came on my recruiting trip I just loved the team. They just made me feel like I was part of the team already,” she said. Those seniors instilled a sense of pride in Central lacrosse in Toke and her young teammates.

Toke and Healy, along with fellow seniors Meaghan McCurry and Cierra Ward (both fifth-year players having redshirted previous seasons) and Ashley Olhausen (who joined the team the same year as Toke and Healy) have tried to do the same thing with the younger players on this team.

Toke majors in biology at Central, and while lacrosse isn’t her future, she isn’t done playing. Next year, she’ll head across the pond to England to play a fifth year of lacrosse while attending graduate school for biology.

Time being, Toke will continue to learn to raise her voice and exert her leadership on the lacrosse field.​



For Central Softball, Repeating not a Focus

by Sean Begin

For the Central Connecticut softball team, the last few years have been a meteoric rise to the top of the Northeast Conference.

Following a 2009 season that saw the team at the bottom of the conference, Central hired head coach Jeff Franquet, who helped increase the team’s win total each season since Central softball’s first NEC title last season.

That success, however, is something the team has put behind them.

“You know, we’re not really focusing on repeating,” said acting head coach Breanne Gleason. “The work that we did last year means nothing this year. We’re starting back from square one.”

Gleason takes over control of the team this season after Franquet was placed on administrative leave in November for undisclosed reasons, just five months after signing a three year contract extension.

“It’s a whole new team; it’s a whole new year. We’re going to look to earn it again,” added Gleason. “We’re looking to build another season, day by day.”

The team loses six seniors from their 2013 championship team, including power hitters Nicole Springer and Kelsey Barlow, who combined for 19 home runs and 77 RBIs last season–the kind of power that will be hard to replace.

“Those were a lot of homeruns and a lot of RBIs that we have to replace. The whole lineup is going to have to manufacture runs this year,” said Gleason. “We’re going to have to replace that with more doubles, a few more base hits.”

In addition to her contributions at the plate, Springer was also a valuable commodity on the mound, providing some relief throughout last season for then-sophomore Laura Messina, tallying a 6-2 record in 8 starts with a 2.64 ERA.

“You just can’t replace Springer,” said Gleason. “She’s one of those kids you get once in a lifetime. She was a machine.”

But the team is not without talent.

Last season’s NEC Player of the Year (among a bevy of other honors), Kat Malcolm, returns for her junior season following her breakout sophomore year where she hit .420 with 10 home runs and 40 RBIs.

For Gleason, Malcolm’s improvements will come from the intangible side of the game: her leadership both on and off the field.

“As a junior she’s obviously a leader. The girls look up to her because she works so hard,” Gleason said. “I think that in that role she’s going to step up more this year. She’s a great leader by example and she’s starting to use her voice as well.”

Success as a sophomore has the potential to result in too much pressure for a player, but Gleason emphasizes that there is “no pressure” on Malcolm.

“Anyone with her talent is going to feel pressure to perform but because we have talent all over on our team, it takes a little bit of the pressure off so that you’re not a one person team,” said Gleason.

Fellow returning junior, pitcher Laura Messina, and senior outfielder Arielle Bruno, are just two of the returning players from last year’s team that will help lead the Blue Devils into the 2014 season.

Bruno finished last season with a .344 average, belting 10 home runs and driving home 32 runs to provide a solid bat in the middle of the order, as well as solid leadership on the field.

“She was up to bat when we were against LSU [in the NCAA regionals] and she struck out the first time and she hits a home run in her second at-bat. And you just can’t teach that,” said Gleason.

“Arielle leads with what she’s got going on inside. There’s never a day Arielle takes off. And that’s why she’s a leader and that’s why she had the year that she had last season.”

Messina, whose 50 wins over the last two seasons are the most ever in program history, will be the workhorse on the mound for the team again this season, much as she was last year.

“She’s not only athletically an amazing pitcher; mentally she’s so tough. It’s hard to go out there and throw two games in one day and Laura makes it look really easy,” said Gleason.

Messina, despite being a reliable presence on the mound, cannot pitch every game, and with Springer gone, other players will need to fill some innings.

Senior Julie Marks, who did not play much last season, has improved her mental game, according to Gleason, and should see some time on the mound. Marks’ fellow senior, Emily Pogemiller, is returning from Tommy John surgery last winter and should be ready to go for the season.

While both players offer some options on the mound, Gleason will also look to junior college transfer Sarah Gaalswijk to fill Springer’s role in backing up Messina on the mound.

“We’re going to need Sarah to step into her [Springer’s] shoes on the field and take some innings away and give Laura some rest,” said Gleason.

Five freshmen join Gaalswijk on the team this season, all of whom will have a chance to help impact the team. Most immediately, Gleason will use Alexis Debrosse in the infield; her exact position has yet to be determined.

“She’s a solid hitter,” said Gleason of Debrosse. “She’s probably one of the best athletes on the team. She’s one of those kids that are good at any sport, so she’s going to contribute right away.”

While the team suffered some key losses, those absences are common in the world of collegiate sports. Luckily, softball being a spring sport, the team has an extra six months to prepare and gel before the season starts.

The team was able to play eight practice games against other universities around the state including New Haven, Bridgeport and Southern Connecticut during the fall. The team was also practicing five to six times a week before the winter set in.

The extra playing and practice time is especially beneficial for the new girls coming in to play.

“It gives them a chance to work with the girls we have, to build relationships and all that kind of stuff,” said Gleason. “They can learn how to talk to each other on the field; they learn what their teammates do.”

The softball season kicks off at the USF Under Armour Invitational, hosted by the University of South Florida, on February 28. The team will play a double header against Campbell University and Georgia State University.

Central’s first home game will not be until March 29; they open up NEC play against Sacred Heart University.

Softball Clinches Tourney Spot

By Derek Turner

From day one, the CCSU softball team had one goal in mind, to win a Northeast Conference title.

They took one step closer to achieving that goal last weekend, clinching a spot in the upcoming tournament and securing at least a share of the regular season title.

With 16 wins, the Blue Devils have set a new single-season conference wins record this season and with two games to play can, for the third year in a row, break the overall season wins record. Central split the two games on Saturday with Robert Morris by scores of 3-1 and 2-3, but swept Quinnipiac in Hamden on Sunday with two mercy rule victories.

Last Saturday, the top team in the conference came to New Britain with basically the opportunity to host the conference tournament on the line. Robert Morris sat at 10-2 coming into the double-header, one game ahead of CCSU in the loss column.

In the bottom of the first, sophomore Kat Malcolm showed off her speed immediately. With one out, the centerfielder beat out a short groundball to the pitcher, but the ball was overthrown allowing Malcolm to circle the bases for the first run of the game.

In the second inning, all six batters to walk to the plate, three from each team struck out.

In the bottom of the third, CCSU extended its lead. Brittany Ernst bunted for a base hit to lead off and then with one out, Malcolm was back at it. She doubled to right field scoring Ernst from first. Nicole Springer followed with a single through the right side driving in Malcolm.

Robert Morris pitching held the usually potent Blue Devil offense in check, giving up only five hits while striking out eight times.

The Colonials scored their lone run in the top of the seventh, it was unearned.

In game two, Robert Morris jumped to a quick 1-0 lead after Ashley Gerhart led off the game with a home run out to right field.

After threatening with a runner on third in the first, but not scoring for CCSU, nine straight batters were retired in order for both sides, but the Blue Devils got one back in the third.

Springer, playing her last regular season home game at CCSU recorded her second RBI of the day, driving in Ernst from second, who had singled earlier in the inning.

The game would remain tied into extra innings until Lauren Hackett of RMU hit a 2-run double to center, giving the Colonials a 3-1 lead. Kelsey Barlow, another senior, led off the bottom of the eighth with a home run, but it wouldn’t be enough as the Colonials avoided the sweep by a score of 3-2.

Sunday spelled more good news for the Blue Devils as they traveled south to Quinnipiac for their final two games of the conference schedule as CCSU made quick work of the Bobcats.

In the first game, both Arielle Bruno and Malcolm homered in what ended up being a seven run fifth inning, en route to a 9-0 victory in five innings.

Game two was much of the same and CCSU walked away with a 11-2 victory and got to go home early.

“We’re just playing well, it’s fun to watch and to be around,” said coach Jeff Franquet.

Barlow had herself a weekend. She capped the four games set with her third long ball of the day in game two on Sunday, securing Player of the Week honors in the conference. Laura Messina just did what she always does and that’s perform. She recorded another shutout and now has 11 on the year. Her victory in the final game of the weekend gave her 23 this season, which broke her own record of 22 that she set last season.

“It doesn’t matter who we play, if Laura’s throwing well and we’re hitting the way we can, we can beat any of those teams,” said Franquet, on Messina being ready for the tournament. “We’ll be ready, you can bank on that.”

Central travels to Maryland-East Shore on Wednesday for its final double-header of the season before they rest up and prepare for the conference tournament on May 9-11. As it stands right now, Robert Morris will be hosting the tournament because they hold the tiebreaker, which is victories over Monmouth University. CCSU lost both games to the Hawks whereas RMU swept them. In order for the Blue Devils to host the conference tournament and be the top seed, RMU needs to lose one out of four games this weekend against either Sacred Heart or Quinnipiac and all four games will be played in Moon Township, Penn.

“I just want to win these two games on Wednesday, get to 32 wins, break the single-season win record,” said Franquet.

Central would love to host the tournament and if the crowd last weekend was any inclination of how it will be, CCSU will definitely have a home field advantage.

“The atmosphere was phenomenal, there was playoff atmosphere, it really was electric out there on Saturday and that was awesome,” said Franquet. “It was just a great day.”


There is no doubt CCSU will be watching the scoreboard this weekend.

Softball Sweeps FDU, Looks To Match Up Against Robert Morris

By Derek Turner

Coming off a weekend where the Blue Devils dropped three of four games and fell to second in the Northeast Conference standings, the team came together for a meeting. They agreed that on April 14, Monmouth was better than them, but on the second weekend of May, CCSU will be the better team.
May 9-11 is the date of the NEC Tournament where, with at least one more victory, CCSU should secure a spot for the second time in three years. They sit at 13-3, one game behind Robert Morris University in the loss column after a sweep of Farleigh Dickinson this past Sunday, by scores of 9-1 and 4-0.
The offense got right to work in the top of the first of game one on Sunday. Arielle Bruno did her job as the leadoff hitter, beating out an infield single to start the game and Kat Malcolm followed with a bunt single. Bruno came in when Nicole Springer reached on a throwing error by Courtney Slye at shortstop. Tessa Brown grounded to the shortstop who retired Springer at second, but Malcolm came in for the second run of the inning.
Laura Messina struck out the side in the second with a hit batter in the middle of it. The sophomore finished the game with 10 strikeouts and only three hits in the win.
After a double in the second by Eileen Purcell failed to produce a run, the Blue Devils scored five in the third to put the game away.
Malcolm, Springer and Brown all reached before the Knights could record an out. Malcolm scored on the RBI single by Brown down the left field line. Kelsey Barlow dropped down a sacrifice bunt moving Brown to second and Sarah Emery, who pinch ran for Springer, to third.
Evie Renztel continued to drive in runs like she has all season. She reached on a fielder’s choice scoring Emery for her 29th of the year and would have another in game two.
After Hannah Cooper walked and was pinch run for by Katie Schmidt, Purcell grounded into a fielder’s choice of her own. Both Rentzel and Brown scored on a throwing error by the second baseman Cindy Zamudio.
Stephanie Chotkevys pinch hit for Brittany Ernst, got the job done and even though she grounded out, Schmidt scored.
The only FDU run of the day came in the top of the fourth with, as coach Franquet called it, “a lack of focus.”
Slye doubled down the left field line with one out and came around to score with two outs on a Hayley Floyd single to left after a Zamudio single.
In the sixth, Chotkevys hit her third home run of the year out to left field giving the Blue Devils an 8-1 lead. Needing one more run to end the game, Malcolm doubled to right center and scored on a Springer single through the left side. The Blue Devils walked off with a mercy rule victory in game one.
Game two didn’t quite showcase the offensive onslaught the Blue Devils have put up most of the weekend, but the fourth inning did show off some power.
Springer led off the inning with her seventh home run of the year, giving her 17 in her career, good for third all-time.
Brown followed with a walk and Emery pinch ran for the first baseman. Barlow drove her in with a double to right center and came around to score herself when Rentzel tripled in the third run of the game. The Blue Devils finished a single shy of the team cycle in the inning.
The fourth and final run of the game came off a Brown RBI double to left center driving in Bruno, who led off the inning with a single.
Messina threw her 26th complete game of the year, striking out seven in her ninth shutout this season.
“[Laura] threw great, we hit the ball well and we did what we were supposed to do,” said Franquet Monday morning in his office. “Those teams that are below us, we’re supposed to sweep [them].”
Messina has thrown 177 2/3 innings this year, which seems like a lot, but Franquet insists that his ace is getting stronger as the season progresses and he will be ready for the big stage of the conference tournament.
“She’s conditioned to pitch as are all pitchers at that level…and at the end of the year, they should be in even better shape,” said Franquet. “At that stage of the game too, adrenaline has to set in, you’re pitching on the biggest stage of the year, you win three games, you’ll be playing in the NCAA tournament.”
This weekend the Blue Devils host Robert Morris in a contest that puts the #1 seed in the tournament on the line. The Colonials currently sit at 10-2 in conference with eight games remaining, including the two in New Britain.
“This weekend’s huge. In an ideal world, we want to win four,” said Franquet. “Hopefully we can take care of business against [Robert Morris] and Quinnipiac and hope somebody knocks them off before the end of the year.”
The top seed hosts the tournament and with a 13-1 home record, the Blue Devils would be more than excited to play in front of a home crowd.
Note: On April 22, Messina picked up her fourth NEC Pitcher of the Week award going 3-0, including two shutouts. She posted a 0.35 ERA, with 28 strikeouts and one earned run in 20 innings.


Blue Devils Drop First Conference Games

By Derek Turner

It had been 20 days since the softball team last played away from New Britain. It had been 27 days since the Blue Devils last lost a game. That all changed last weekend.

The CCSU softball team dropped three of four games on the weekend, the first game of two vs. Mount St. Mary’s on Saturday and both to Monmouth on Sunday.

“It was kind of a mess,” said sophomore pitcher Laura Messina. “We just came out flat; I don’t think we were prepared for Mount St. Mary’s to be any good at all. I think we really underestimated them.”

In game one vs. the Mountaineers, the home team jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the second inning, but CCSU battled back, scoring single runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth.

Eileen Purcell singled to left field with one out. Her pinch runner, Katie Schmidt, scored when Hannah Cooper tripled to right center. This tied the game at one.

Next inning Kat Malcolm led off the inning with an infield single to the left side. She stole second and then advanced to third on a passed ball. The Blue Devils center fielder scored when Kelsey Barlow flew out to right field.

Purcell collected her second hit of the day to lead off the sixth, a single to right field. She advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Cooper and scored when Bruno singled to left field.

The Mount answered in a big way.

With two outs wrapped around a double, Erin Leddy homered to left-center tying the game at three, but didn’t stop. Bruno made an error at second allowing Rachel Teti to reach, and then Messina walked Holly Buckel and hit Bre Lohman with a pitch to load the bases. Marisa Mayes answered the call with a two RBI doubles to right center giving the Mountaineers a 5-3 lead.

CCSU loaded the bases in the top of the seventh, but couldn’t get the timely hit as Cooper lined out to third base to end the game, giving the Blue Devils their first Northeast Conference loss of the season and Mount St. Mary’s only their third conference victory.

“Usually if it came down to the last inning we could win, because we’re home,” said Messina on the comforts of playing at home.

Central Connecticut’s only win on the weekend came a couple hours later.

Bruno led off the game with a single through the left side, advanced to second on a bunt single by Malcolm and reach third when Nicole Springer grounded out to first. The Blue Devils second baseman scored through the back door when Tessa Brown grounded out to second.

In the second, Evie Rentzel singled and then Brittany Ernst walked with two outs. Bruno doubled to left-center driving in both runs. CCSU held a 3-0 lead.

In the bottom of the inning, Leddy homered for the second time on the day and after Messina struck out Teti, Lohman followed with another home run, cutting the lead to one, but that would be it for The Mount.

Renztel hit her fifth home run of the year in the third, driving in Sarah Emery in the process and then in the fourth the offense exploded for six runs.

With one out and one on, Malcolm hit her team-leading eighth home run at the time and Springer followed with a long ball of her own, her sixth.

After a pitching change, four consecutive walks added another run and finally Stephanie Chotkevys singled up the middle with two outs driving in two and giving the Blue Devils a 11-2 lead. Mount St. Mary’s would fail to score in the fifth, giving CCSU a “Five Inning, Mercy Rule” victory.

The team then rode the bus three-plus hours east to West Longbranch, NJ to take on Monmouth University on Sunday. Three of the Blue Devils starters are from New Jersey, so it was a bit of a homecoming for Arielle Bruno, Laura Messina and Eileen Purcell, but things just didn’t go to plan.

Sitting third in the NEC standings, the Hawks posed the toughest competition of the year. Those two games may have gotten into the heads of the players, because they knew they had to win those games, mentioned Messina.

Game one stayed scoreless through regulation until the 10th inning when MU finally broke through. Tish Derer was placed on second, as softball rules state that in extra-innings a runner is placed on second base to begin the inning to try and finish the game quicker. Kaitie Schumacher singled up the middle with one out and Derer scored from second to walk-off with the win.

The game was quite the pitcher’s duel. Only three base-runners reached third base (two for Monmouth and one for CCSU), none until the sixth inning.

The Hawks came out quick in game two scoring three in the first and CCSU answered with one in the second and another in the third, including Malcolm’s ninth home run of the year. She is one away from tying the single-season record held by teammates Barlow and Springer.

Two more unearned runs in the sixth gave Monmouth a 5-2 lead and they would win by the same score.

“They hit, we made a few errors,” said Messina. “Defensively we shut them down, it was just offensively we couldn’t score any runs.”

The Blue Devils travel to Holy Cross today and return home Sunday for a double-header vs. Farleigh Dickenson.

The Blue Devils will almost guarantee themselves a spot in the conference tournament with two more wins.

“I think we’re going to be able to win those next two games to get us into conference,” said Messina.

Evie Rentzel Proves To Be An Asset For The Blue Devils

Amanda Webster

When first sitting down with Evie Rentzel, it is hard to imagine the shy, mild-mannered smiling freshman as a fierce competitor on the CCSU softball team, but throughout the season Rentzel has proven that while on the field she is a force to be reckoned with.
Since the age of five, Rentzel has been playing sports. She started with T-ball and has been involved with sports ever since. A love of sports and encouragement from her family has kept her dedicated as an athlete throughout her life.
“When I was little I played soccer and softball, it was just about having fun with my friends and being active,” said Rentzel.
As the starting left-fielder, Rentzel has made her presence known by helping the team make their way to a 10-0 in the NEC and a 20-9 overall. During the last game, she ended the game with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 8th inning and considers her performance to be one of her personal highlights of the season.
“We just stayed together as a team and had totally confidence in each other that even though the other team came back and tied it up, we knew we were going to pull out the win,” she explained.
Softball’s Head Coach Jeffery Franquet said that he expects Rentzel to continue to make progress with the team and is excited to see how she develops as a player.
“Evie is as athletic as they get,” said Franquet. “There are still some things that we need to fine tune with her and that comes with maturity,” he said of Rentzel, who is one of four starting freshmen.
“Literally, you get every ounce of her being every single day at practice and at games,” stated Franquet. “She is very intense, to say that she is a perfectionist would be a huge understatement.”
Although being a perfectionist can work against athletes at times, Rentzel’s attitude has proven to pay off. During the week of March 11, Rentzel was named the Northeast Conference Rookie of the Week.
“I definitely  wasn’t expecting it,” said Rentzel.
Recruited from her hometown in Penn., Rentzel played softball for Northern York High School where she was named Mid-Penn Conference Colonial Division First Team All-Star. Her talent has only continued to shine since joining the Blue Devils which is obvious with her .397 batting average.
To stay motivated during both games and practices, Rentzel says she focuses on what her teammates need from her.”I really want to do well, not only for me but for the team. If I don’t get the hit I need or something, I know they’ll be there to pick me up.”
“She’s just clutch,” stated Franquet. “She’s been clutch for us all year and we have no doubt that she’ll continue to be clutch for us…you’re not going to meet a better kid.”


Records Fall As CCSU Continues To Win

By Derek Turner

The CCSU softball field may be the windiest place on campus. Blowing from left to right most of the time, it wreaks havoc on fly balls for the good and the bad. The Blue Devils have hit 31 home runs this season, already surpassing last season’s total of 28, but only 13 of them have come at home, so what is the secret ingredient to the CCSU softball team’s success?
In the second game of a double-header versus Sacred Heart on Saturday, sophomore pitcher Laura Messina struck out Justine Sibthorp in the top of the fifth inning to record her 314 career strikeout, breaking the school record previously held by Rachel Brenneman.
“Laura is very special and when she’s throwing well, we’re in pretty good shape,” said Head Coach Jeff Franquet.
The clearly defined ace of the pitching staff shows up to the field every game knowing she will get the ball and her teammates are more than confident in her.
“Everyday I wake up and everyday I get to the field and I can’t wait to play,” said Messina after her most recent record-breaking performance.
She can’t do it alone. The offense has picked her up every game and that’s the reason why after 12 games in the conference season, the Blue Devils are a perfect 12-0.
Eileen Purcell stepped up in game two Saturday with a two-run home run to center field driving in her classmate, freshman Evie Rentzel to give CCSU a 2-0 lead in the second inning.
“It’s not about the home runs, they’re going to come,” said Franquet. “It’s nice to have somebody different every game to step up.”
Rentzel led off the fourth with a double off the top of the left field fence, just missing another home run. Purcell sacrificed her to third on a bunt fielded by the pitcher and then fellow freshman, Hannah Cooper, dropped down a perfectly placed bunt on a designed squeeze play to get Rentzel home.
In the fifth, the upperclassmen got the job done. Kat Malcolm singled to right field and showed off her speed by racing into second when Jade Bowins, the center fielder bobbled the ball. Nicole Springer followed with a single through the right side scoring Malcolm from second.
Messina went all seven innings, per usual, striking out seven and not allowing a run for the seventh time in Northeast Conference play.
In game one it was much of the same.
In the third inning Cooper doubled to lead off. Sarah Emery, the first pinch runner off the bench, ran for Cooper and scored from second on an error by the  first baseman Courtney Machamer.
The big blow came in the fifth when Malcolm stepped up to the plate with two on and none out. She blasted her fifth home run of the year to center field, knocking the pitcher Noelle Cahill out of the game.
The Blue Devils would add one more before the conclusion of the inning when Rentzel drove in Tessa Brown all the way from first.
I’ve never played on a team that’s this great on offense and it’s really exciting,” said Messina. “I’m just excited to keep getting more strikeouts and keep playing.”
On Sunday, the Blue Devils faced their toughest NEC competition yet, the St. Francis Red Flash.
CCSU took a 6-1 lead after three innings in game one on an RBI double by Springer in the first and two home runs in the third. Malcolm hit her first of two on the day with none out and two on, then Kelsey Barlow hit a two-run shot to break the game open, or so they thought.
St. Francis battled back in the fourth with three runs all coming from a home run by Chelsea Rex.
Springer added two more for CCSU in the fourth with a double.
The Red Flash hit two more home runs, both solo shots by Kate Blattenberger and Sabrie Neeb in the sixth and seventh respectively.
With the wind gusting at least 30 miles-per-hour at some times during the day, the two teams combined to hit eight home runs, four apiece in a 12-11 extra-inning victory for the Blue Devils.
Renztel hit the one that made the difference, a walk-off solo shot to left field and coach Franquet said he saw it in her eyes; she was confident. Malcolm, Springer and Barlow, the team leaders in home runs also went deep in the second game on Sunday.
“We’re swinging the bats pretty well and that’s what it’s about,” said Franquet on Saturday before the wind-enhanced power showcase on Sunday. “Our offense needs to keep getting better and better and we’ll be right where we want to be.”
On Monday, Kat Malcolm was named NEC Co-Player of the Week, her second weekly award this season. The center fielder went 6-14 including three home runs this past weekend while driving in eight. She leads the team with a .398 batting average, 31 runs scored, 39 hits, seven home runs, 26 RBIs, 6 stolen bases and .443 on-base percentage.
The Blue Devils head out on the road for their next six games. April 13 at Mount St. Mary’s, April 14 at Monmouth and April 17 at Holy Cross for an out of conference double-header. CCSU’s next home date is April 21 when Farleigh Dickenson comes to New Britain.


Offense Coming to Life For Blue Devils

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.

Swing And A Miss For Blue Devils

Derek Turner

Coming off of a tough defensive day last Wednesday where the Blue Devils split with the University of Hartford; 6-4 loss and 6-2 victory, making a total of six errors, the Central Connecticut softball team traveled to Hempstead, New York for the Hofstra Tournament.

Playing arguably the best team on their schedule and another top team in the region, CCSU dropped all four games they played last weekend, two to the host school and two more against the University of Connecticut.

“At the end of the year, if we win the conference, we’re going to face those teams, that’s why we play that type of schedule,” said Head Coach Jeff Franquet.

Saturday morning, as the snow was falling on Long Island, the Blue Devils had trouble getting going. Nicole Springer started the game in the circle and immediately gave up six runs in the first and three more in the second. Only one of the runs, however, was earned due to three CCSU errors. Senior Jordan Tingley came in relief of Springer in the third and didn’t allow a hit or a run in the two innings she pitched, but the Central offense didn’t help, falling 9-0 in five innings.

“In order to compete with those teams you have to play your A-game,” said Springer. “There’s no room for error, there’s no room for a missed pitch, poor at-bat, dropped fly ball. Those teams take advantage of everything, with or without errors.”

In the second game of the day, Central played their closest game of the weekend, an 8-6 loss to in-state rival UConn.

After getting the first two outs of the game, pitcher Laura Messina gave up a homerun to center fielder Kim Silva. Two innings later the Blue Devils took the lead 2-1. Kat Malcolm led off the third with a double to right center field and Springer followed with a walk; Sarah Emery would pinch run for Springer. Tessa Brown dropped down a sacrifice bunt, moving the runners up one base. Kelsey Barlow singled to the shortstop allowing Malcolm to score, then with two outs, Evie Rentzel singled through the left side driving in Emery.

“Kat Malcolm, you can’t get her out and the outs she’s making, she’s knocking people over, she’s hitting the ball that hard,” said Franquet.

With one out in the top of the fourth, Messina gave up another homerun, this time a two-run shot to right fielder Marrisa Guches.

In the bottom of the fifth, Central scored four runs, all with two outs to take a 6-3 lead. Rentzel drove in Ernst, then with the bases loaded, Stephanie Chotkevys was hit by a pitch allowing Gianna Sandstrom to trot home. Arielle Bruno followed with a two RBI single through the left side scoring Eileen Purcell and Rentzel. The Blue Devils batted around in the inning.

“We have nine hitters in the lineup that can flat out hit and seven or eight of them can hit homeruns,” said Franquet.

Messina retired the Huskies in order in the top of the sixth, but in the seventh Connecticut struck for five runs, including a 3 RBI double by Silva.

Sunday, the Blue Devils dropped two more games in the same order they did the day before, but the offense had started to come alive.

Hofstra jumped out to a 5-1 lead after two innings with two long balls. Becca Bigler hit  a three-run shot in the first and Tessa Ziemba added two more runs with a homerun to centerfield. Sandwiched between those two blasts was Bruno’s first homerun of the season for CCSU.

The Pride continued to put on a power display as Caryn Bailey homered in the third.

The Blue Devils began to chip away at the deficit in the third when Brown doubled home Malcolm, but Hofstra tacked on three more in the fifth.

A total of seven runs were scored in the seventh inning, two Pride homeruns and one by CCSU’s Kelsey Barlow, the 20th of her career, which ties her for the program’s most all-time.

A total of seven homeruns were hit in the first game of Saturday, but the Blue Devils fell 12-6.

Springer pulled double duty again in the final game of the weekend, homering to left field with two out in the first to give Central a quick 1-0 lead over UConn while also starting in the circle for the Blue Devils.

“Pitching and hitting are two completely different mental games,” said Springer.

The Huskies came back with one run in the first, two in the second and exploded for five in the third. Five of those eight runs came off the bat of Connecticut first baseman Audrey Grinnell; a two-run homerun in the second and a three-run shot in the third.

Central added one run in the fourth when Hannah Cooper drove in Barlow, but they couldn’t add anymore. The game ended in a 10-2 UConn victory after five innings when the mercy rule was applied.

“We’re swinging the bat really well, I think we have our defense figured out and that’s the key going into next weekend,” said Franquet as he and the team prepare for Northeast Conference play beginning this weekend at Wagner and LIU-Brooklyn.

I think we’re ready, we just have to put it all together, there’s no room for error anymore.

We have 13 games we have to win to guarantee ourselves a spot in the conference.