FORT MEYERS, Fla. — The University of Saint Joseph (USJ) softball team kicked the 2019 season off with an early lead, but could not maintain it over the final two innings, falling to Alfred State College (ASC), 3-2, at the CenturyLink Sports Complex in Fort Myers, Fla. Saturday morning.
Teams are competing all week down south in the annual Gene Cusic Classic, created by Cusic and Lee County Parks and Recreation (FL), giving collegiate baseball and softball teams an opportunity to participate in a classic style tournament during their respective spring breaks.
The Pioneers (1-0) scored the game-winning run in walk-off fashion on a wild pitch, after loading the bases to start the bottom of the seventh inning. The Blue Jays (0-1) led 2-0 into the bottom of the sixth but allowed three runs in the final two innings to suffer the setback. Freshman center fielder Marissa Varela (Egg Harbor Township, N.J.) finished 1-for-3 with an RBI single for the Pioneers. Sophomore first baseman Ashley Peterson (Maybrook, N.Y.) followed it up with an RBI single to right, scoring Varela to tie the game at two. Freshman third baseman Arianna Traugott (Elmira, N.Y.) had the only extra base hit of the game, a double in the bottom of the second, while junior catcher McKenna Driscoll (Bristol, Conn.) drove in both of USJ's runs on the day, finishing 2-for-3 with two singles.
Junior pitcher Amaria Sharon (Tolland, Conn.) pitched five innings, allowing just three hits and three walks, to go along with six strikeouts for USJ. Freshman pitcher Brittany Fisher (Indianapolis, Ind.) struck out four in seven complete innings of work to earn the win for ASC.
The Blue Jays struck first in the top of the third inning with a two-RBI single off the bat of Driscoll. The Blue Jays loaded the bases highlighted by a bunt single from sophomore second baseman Michelle Woodruff (Southington, Conn.) and single from senior third baseman Kara Klimaszewski(Naugatuck, Conn.). Both Woodruff and Klimaszewski would score on the two-out rip to right field by Driscoll to give USJ the early 2-0 advantage.
Sharon used experience to her advantage, forcing several fly-outs and groundouts, in addition to six strikeouts, to stymie the Pioneers over her five innings of work. The Blue Jays then turned to freshman pitcher Julia Annecchiarico (Ludlow, Conn.) for relief to start the bottom of the sixth, but the Pioneer bats suddenly caught fire, as Fisher scored on an RBI single from Varela to make it 2-1.
After a fly out, Peterson singled to right, scoring Varela to tie it at two. Annecchiarico retired the next two batters to end the inning and keep things deadlocked. Annecchiarico singled in the top of the seventh, but Saint Joe's was unable to respond.
The Pioneers kept up the pressure in the bottom of the seventh, knowing they needed just more run to complete the comeback. Freshman pitcher Natalie Amato (Cheshire, Conn.) came in after the first two runners reached on a walk and hit batter. ASC loaded the bases with nobody out following a bunt single, and after a wild pitch, the Pioneers brought home the winning run to clinch their first victory of the season.
USJ will be competing all week long in the annual Gene Cusic Classic in Fort Meyers, Florida. The Blue Jays will play in their second straight doubleheader Sunday, March 10 against Lesley (MA) at 9:00 a.m., and Western Connecticut State (CT) at 1:00 p.m.