Category Archives: Softball

CCSU Sweeps Yale in Home Opener

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.

Softball Satisfied With Opening Weekend

By Derek Turner

The first road trip of the Central Connecticut softball season was a success, as the Blue Devils return to New Britain with a 2-3 record.

Central played its first five games of the season against teams who had at least nine games under their belt, heading into the University of South Florida Under Armour Invitational.

“For us to go down there and compete first weekend out I’m certainly pleased with our effort,”  said Head Coach Jeff Franquet. “I have zero complaints, we just have to sure up some things.”

CCSU dropped game one versus Georgia State 3-1. Laura Messina got the start and went the distance, giving up three earned runs, but struck out eight. Central’s freshman catcher Hannah Cooper drove in the first run of the season in the bottom of the fourth with a double to left field. Brittany Ernst, who pinch ran for Nicole Springer, scored from first.

The next half inning, Messina allowed the first two runners to reach base and the third batter hit a homerun out to left.

Just a few hours later the Blue Devils played Stephen F. Austin; senior Jordan Tingley got the start. The Jacks jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first and would extend their lead to 3-0 in the top of the fourth, but CCSU answered in the bottom of the inning with two runs of their own when junior Arielle Bruno doubled to lead off the inning and freshman Evie Rentzal bunted for a base hit, moving Bruno to third.

Cooper knocked both runs in on a single to left field.

The Central offense exploded for six runs in the sixth, led by home runs from sophomore Kat Malcolm and Cooper, the first of her career.

“She handled it pretty well for the first time out. She had a great weekend,” said Franquet on his freshman catcher. “Catching at the division one level is not an easy thing: she threw out a lot of runners trying to steal against her and she has one of the strongest arms, if not the strongest arm in the conference.”

Springer came in to close out the game in the seventh and allowed one run, but the Blue Devils came away with their first win of the season 8-4.

Eastern Kentucky entered the tournament with a 7-2 record, the best of the five teams CCSU played. The two teams matched up Saturday morning with the Colonels coming away with a 6-1 victory. Central’s lone run came in the top of the fifth when junior Tessa Brown led off the inning with a single. Senior Sarah Emery pinch ran for Brown, stole second and scored when freshman Eileen Purcell doubled to center field.

If there was a game the Blue Devils wish they could have back, it would be the 3-2 loss to Illinois-Chicago on Saturday afternoon. Messina gave up 10 hits and two walks, but the third run in the bottom of the eighth giving the Flames a walk-off win was the killer.

Illinois-Chicago scored one in the first and one in the fourth off a home run; Central came back with two in the sixth. Bruno doubled to begin the inning and with one out, Springer blasted the game-tying home run.

“Nicole Springer had an amazing weekend. If she made four out all weekend, those four balls were crushed right at people for outs,” said Franquet. “The two home runs she hit were in the grounds of 280 feet or more; they were absolute bombs.”

The rules state that once a softball game enters extra innings, each team starts with a runner at second base to ensure a quicker resolution.

Bruno began the eighth inning on second base, then advanced to third on a Malcolm sacrifice bunt. Springer lined out hard to center field, but Bruno was cut down at the plate 8-5-2 to end the inning.

Illinois-Chicago scored the winning run when their extra-innings runner advanced to third on an error and scored on a single.

The final game of the weekend ended in the first shutout by the Blue Devils, a 4-0 victory over Loyola-Marymount.

Ashley Black got the offense going in the third when she singled and advanced to second on a bunt by freshman Kenya McVey. Malcolm singled in Black for the first run of the game.

Cooper singled with one out in the fourth and advanced to second on a groundout and third on an error. She finally scored when Kelsey Barlow singled.

In the top of the fifth, Malcolm singled with one out and Springer followed with a home run, her second of the weekend. Messina earned her first win of the season.

At times this past weekend, the Blue Devils had five freshmen on the field at once. Franquet says Rentzel has solidified the left field position. McVey was at shortstop; Purcell was at third base and Cooper catching.

Springer paced the offense with a .412 average through the first five games, including two home runs and four runs batted in. Brown finished the weekend with seven hits in 16 at-bats with a double.

Messina begins the season with a 1-2 record, but already has 18 strikeouts in 21 ⅓ innings.

“The month of March is basically spring training to get ready for conference,” said Franquet. “The moral is great, the energy’s fantastic, the players are understanding their roles; it should be a pretty good year.”

Central leaves Thursday for two games against Coppin St. before the Hampton Tournament on March 8 and 9 where they will play Canisius, Hampton, Siena and Maryland-East Shore before returning home March 13 for a double-header versus Hartford.

Softball Built For Run At NEC Title

By Derek Turner

Each of the last two seasons for Central Connecticut’s softball team have been record breakers; 29 wins in 2011 and 31 wins last year are the two highest totals in school history. But in 2013 the Blue Devils won’t settle for anything less than a Northeast Conference championship.

Last season CCSU narrowly qualified for its second straight NEC tournament, missing it by one game with an 11-9 conference record.

“I have that bitter taste in my mouth from last year,” said senior Nicole Springer, who wants a conference title in her final season in New Britain.

This year’s team is expected to be the most complete team Central has ever had. Coach Jeff Franquet has built up this program to a point where he can use any one of the 27 ladies on his roster and have the confidence they will do their job.

“Our goal and our vision for this year is to get better and break more records: team records and offensive records,” said Franquet. “But one of the most important things is to keep bringing better people in here.”

This may be the most balanced and talented team Central has ever assembled and the newcomers have a lot to do with it. There are 13 new players on the roster and according to Franquet, five or six will play on a regular basis. The opening day lineup will boast a freshman at catcher, shortstop, third base and in the outfield.

Catcher and shortstop are often referred to as the most important positions on the diamond. Hannah Cooper and Kenya McVey have proven to their teammates they are ready.

“She’s [Cooper] very strong, very smart; knows what she’s doing behind the plate,” said Springer.

McVey has unbelievable range according to Springer and makes the throw across the diamond with ease.

Sophomore pitcher Laura Messina is excited to be Cooper’s battery mate this season, moving last year’s catcher Tessa Brown to first base. Springer, who played first base last season, will spend more time in the circle this year, but Messina, the ace of the staff ,will still see a large majority of the innings.

“We have 50 games on the schedule and I would say Laura will probably start 35,” said Franquet.

Messina is coming off easily the best season in Central Connecticut history for a pitcher where she went 22-11 with a 2.01 ERA . Her 35 appearances tied a single season record. She set three other pitching records in her first season. The 22 wins put her sixth on the career list, more than halfway to the record. Her 219.2 innings pitched is the most in a single season and she recorded 207 strikeouts, third all-time. Messina enters the 2013 season with seven shutouts, needing only four to break the record.

“If our pitching is good, we’re going to win a lot of games. She’s as good as they get,” said Franquet on Messina.

This team does not have captains because Franquet does not believe in them. They have improved as a team since they started practicing in the fall and continued to work hard all winter to get ready for the season.

“We have 27 great people on this team,” said Franquet. “They all have great personalities and all bring something different to the table, but that dynamic and their work ethic will hopefully spin us into the best year ever here.”

The offense this year will be led by seniors Kelsey Barlow and Springer as well as junior Arielle Bruno. Last season Springer tied Barlow and two others for the single season home run record with 10 and tied the single season RBI record with 45. Barlow enters her final season with a .483 career slugging percentage and 74 runs batted in. She is also one home run away from tying the career record of 20 held by Pam Shifrin.

Bruno currently holds a .326 career batting average while slugging .494 with 10 home runs. Her 77 runs scored ranks sixth all-time and she will easily move up the total bases list where she currently sits at 173.

The snow has kept the team off the field for the entire winter, so when the Blue Devils leave for Florida on Thursday and practice at the University of South Florida, it will be their first time on a field since the fall season.

“We all want to play; everybody is restless and just wants to get out there,” said Messina.

The team is down to working out and practicing five days a week, with Wednesdays being the off day and just lifting on Thursdays, but there is nothing like getting back on the field and finally playing a team in a different uniform once again.

“The athletes are here, the pitching is here; you have to have a little luck at times and you have to win a couple games you weren’t supposed to win,” said Franquet.

Central Connecticut opens the 2013 season as a part of the USF Tournament in Tampa on March 1 when they play Georgia State and Stephen F. Austin. They will play a total of five games in Florida before coming back home for their scheduled home opener on March 5 vs. Yale.

The Blue Devils will then head back on the road to Coppin State and then the Hampton Tournament. They return home March 13 for a double-header at Hartford, before playing Hofstra and UConn at the Hofstra Tournament.

Holy Cross comes to CCSU on March 27 just before conference play begins two days later vs. Bryant at home. Of the final 24 games this season, 14 will be played in New Britain with Senior Day scheduled for April 27 vs. Robert Morris.

Central will close out the regular season with an out-of-conference matchup at Maryland-East Shore on May 1, just before the NEC tournament.