WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – The University of Saint Joseph Blue Jays' softball team picked up 4-1 and 7-6 victories over the Norwich University Cadets at home Thursday afternoon in a Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) doubleheader at the USJ Softball Field. With the wins, the Blue Jays improve to 14-8 overall and 6-2 in the GNAC on the season while the Cadets slip to 5-11 and 3-9. USJ will be back in action next on the road on Saturday in another GNAC matchup as they travel to the Rivier University Raiders for a doubleheader on Raider Field starting at 1:00 p.m.
Game 1: University of Saint Joseph - 4, Norwich University - 1
Game 2: University of Saint Joseph - 7, Norwich University - 6
Records: USJ (14-8, 6-2), NU ( 5-11, 3-9)
Location: West Hartford, Conn. - USJ Softball Field
Date: Thursday, April 12, 2018
HOW IT HAPPENED
Sophomore Amaria Sharon (Tolland, Conn.) recorded a pair of victories in the circle and classmate and batterymate McKenna Driscoll (Bristol Conn.) went a perfect 6-for-6 with four RBI to lead the charge for the Blue Jays over the Cadets.
Game 1 – USJ 4, Norwich 1
The Blue Jays got their work done early at the dish in the opener to supply more than enough cushion for Sharon inside the circle en route to the 4-1 victory. USJ jumped out right away to a 2-0 lead with a pair of runs in the bottom of the first inning. After two quick outs, Sharon got the rally started with a double before she was driven in by Driscoll on an RBI single. Following a walk to junior Isabella Russo (Southington, Conn.) to put runners on first and second, freshman Paola Bronner (New Britain, Conn.) singled to bring home Driscoll and make it 2-0.
USJ kept its foot on the pedal in the bottom of the next frame and pushed two more runs across to build a 4-0 advantage. Freshman Alessandra Milardo (Plantsville, Conn.) singled to start the inning and then came all the way home on an RBI double by the next batter, classmate Amanda Thiel (Torrington, Conn.), to score the first run. Junior Morgan Skoly (Vernon, Conn.) stepped in next and slapped the third straight hit though and drove in Thiel with an RBI single to put the Blue Jays up 4-0.
After Sharon retired the first 11 batters to start the game, Norwich finally got in the hit column in the top of the fourth inning after a single by junior Naomi Rinaldo (Middlefield, Conn.). She would steal second to move into scoring position before being driven home by junior Emily Oliver (Sagamore Hills, Ohio) to cut the USJ lead to 4-1.
Sharon kept her composure though and got out of the frame and went on to throw perfect fifth and sixth innings. Norwich would threaten in the top of the seventh and put two runners on after a pair of singles to bring the tying run to the plate with two outs, but the sophomore right-handed hurler induced a fly out to end the game.
The complete game victory for Sharon evened her record to 6-6 on the season after allowing just one earned run on four hits. She did not walk a single batter and struck out three Cadets while facing just four batters over the minimum.
Driscoll led the way at the plate for USJ going 2-for-2 with an RBI and a run scored. Sharon also collected a multi-hit game and finished 2-for-3 with a double and a run scored.
Oliver went the distance for Norwich in the opener. In six innings of work, she allowed four runs on nine hits and two walks and struck out a pair. She also posted a multi-hit game for the visitors going 2-for-3 with an RBI.
Game 2 - USJ 7, Norwich 6
The second game proved to be a much different story and featured a back and forth offensive affair with 29 combined hits between the two teams. The Blue Jays led 7-5 entering the final inning, but Norwich was poised to mount a comeback. A one-out single by freshman Brittany Vandergroef (Lodi, N.J.) put runners on the corners before junior Madison Miller (Long Lake, N.Y.) cut the NU deficit to 7-6 on an RBI groundout and moved the tying run to second base.
Sophomore Katie Reid (Gold Canyon, Ariz.) stepped in next and ripped a single which looked like it would tie the game, but USJ used a perfect relay from left fielder Bronner to junior third baseman Kara Klimaszewski (Naugatuck, Conn.) to Driscoll behind the plate to cut down the run and end the game in a defensive walk-off fashion, 7-6.
The Cadets struck first in game two with a run in the top of the first inning on an RBI single from Oliver. However, the Blue Jays answered right back with three runs of their own in the bottom half of the frame. RBI hits from Sharon, Driscoll and Milardo accounted for the scoring to put USJ up 3-1 early on.
Norwich punched right back with a run in the top of the second, but USJ doubled up the Cadets scoring in their half of the inning with two runs to make it 5-2 after two complete innings of play. The Cadets would go on to get a run in the third inning and another in the fourth off USJ's freshman starter Milardo to make it 5-4.
Sharon would come on in relief of Milardo in the top of the fifth inning and shut the door for the time being. However, the Cadets would force across the tying run in the top of the sixth to knot the game at 5-5. A USJ error to start the inning proved to be costly as two batters later senior Sarah Perry (New Bedford, Mass.) drove in the tying run with an RBI double.
Fittingly though, it would be the hot bat of Driscoll to break the deadlock with the go-ahead RBI in the bottom of the sixth inning. After a two-out walk to Sharon, Driscoll blasted a clutch RBI double to put the Blue Jays ahead, 6-5. Junior Cinthia Vega (Waterbury, Conn.) then spelled Driscoll for the moment as a pinch runner and came around to score on an RBI single from Milardo in what would be a huge insurance run for USJ to make it 8-6 prior to the dramatic ending in the top of the seventh.
Sharon picked up her second win of the day after coming on in relief and pitching the final three innings. She allowed two runs (one earned) while scattering four hits and struck out three to improve her record to 7-6 on the year. Milardo worked the first four innings surrendering four runs and struck out one.
The middle of the order - Driscoll, Sharon, and Milardo - posted multi-hit games for USJ in the nightcap. Driscoll completed her perfect day with a 4-for-4 showing with a double, three RBI, and a run scored in game two. Sharon went 2-for-3 with two RBI and two runs scored and Milardo finished 2-for-3 with two RBI.
Freshman Jenna Sprague (Brookfield, Vt.) was dealt the loss for the Cadets going 5.2 innings and allowing seven runs. Reid collected three hits to go with two runs scored to lead the visitors offensively.
The USJ softball team will return to the field next on Saturday with a GNAC road doubleheader at Rivier University beginning at 1:00 p.m. Norwich is back in action next at home on Saturday against Lasell in a GNAC doubleheader at 3:00 p.m.