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.