By Derek Turner
Commanding pitching performances by Laura Messina and Nicole Springer led the Central Connecticut Softball Team to a sweep of Yale last Tuesday in the home opener.
Both pitchers went the distance for their team. Messina allowed four hits and struck out six while allowing one unearned run in the 8-1 game one victory. Springer allowed three hits and had two strikeouts while also allowing one unearned run in the darkness shortened 3-1 game two win.
“I thought Laura obviously pitched well in game one, Nicole threw really well in game two,” said Head Coach Jeff Franquet.
CCSU scored the first run of the afternoon in the third inning when Springer walked with the bases loaded forcing in Sarah Emery, who was pinch running for Kenya McVey.
Central blew the game open with a five-run fifth inning after Yale tied the game in the fourth. Second baseman Arielle Bruno led off with a double down the left field line. Center fielder Kat Malcolm followed with a single and advanced to second on the throw home. With runners on second and third with none out, Springer knocked in Bruno. With two outs, Ashley Black reached safely on a bunt and Malcolm scored through the back door with Springer right behind on an error by the Yale pitcher.
Evie Rentzel kept the rally going with a triple to right field, scoring Black from second. Katie Schmidt singled to right driving in Rentzel for the fifth run of the inning.
In the bottom of the inning Coach Franquet put Black into right field as a defensive replacement for Kelsey Barlow. With a runner on first with two outs, Yale designated hitter Lauren Delgadillo drove the ball down the right field line. Black cut it off before it hit the fence, turned and fired to Bruno, who relayed the throw home to catcher Hannah Cooper, who applied the tag to end the inning.
Freshman shortstop Kenya McVey flashed some leather as well, making a couple strong throws across the diamond and ranging behind second base for another.
In the sixth, Central scored two more on RBI’s from Hannah Cooper and Tessa Brown and Messina retired the Bulldogs in order in the seventh for her second win of the season.
“I think everyone feels a lot more confident at home, because we’re so used to playing on this field,” said Bruno.
As the sun began to hide behind the clouds and the temperature dropped, the few fans put their extra layers on and game two began.
Yale jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead in the first on an unearned run, but CCSU answered with three in the bottom of the first.
It started with one out and Kat Malcolm at the plate. The sophomore center fielder fouled a ball off her foot early in the at-bat and took a few minutes to get back in the box, but a couple pitches later she lined a homerun off the roof of the pavilion, tying the game at one.
Cooper singled with two outs and advanced to second when Brown reached on an error. Back-to-back RBI singles to right by Rentzel and Barlow extended the Blue Devil lead to 3-1 and that’s how it would stay.
The game was called after four and a half innings due to darkness.
“It’s great, I love being home; in Florida it was cold, so it’s like we never left,” said Bruno.
The Blue Devils left for their second road trip of the season last Thursday for the Hampton Tourney on Friday and Saturday.
Coach Franquet said before the team left that they had a good chance to win all four; three out of four was a solid showing.
Friday, Central defeated Canisius 6-1 behind three RBI’s from Rentzel who went 4-4 in the game. The second game of the day the Blue Devils dropped a close 4-2 game vs. the host school. Springer and Brown drove in the two runs for CCSU.
On Saturday, Central defeated Siena 9-4, with two runs batted in coming from Brown, while Malcolm went 3-4 and scored three runs. Messina allowed four runs, two earned and struck out four for her fourth victory of the season.
In the final game of the weekend, Malcolm continued her hot streak going 4-4, with five RBI’s, including a three-run homerun in the Blue Devils’ 11-2 mercy-rule win over Maryland-East Shore. Springer contributed on both sides of the ball; she started in the circle allowing two runs, none earned and striking out three with only one hit allowed. With the bat she drove in two runs in the fifth with a double to right field helping herself to a 2-0 record as a starter.
Malcolm had a great second week of the season, going 13-23 in six games with two homeruns, six RBI’s and ten runs scored.
Messina improved her record to 4-2 on the year with 31 strikeouts and a 1.16 earned run average.
The Blue Devils sit at 7-4 on the season and play at the University of Hartford March 13 at 2:30 and 4 p.m. The Blue Devils next true home game isn’t until March 27 when they host Holy Cross in a double-header beginning at 3 p.m.