NAPLES, Fla. — The University of Saint Joseph (USJ) softball team would not be denied in their final day of spring break, splitting a doubleheader, their sixth in seven days, part of the Gene Cusic Classic Friday.
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 spring breaks.
In game one, the Blue Jays (4-7) held a 5-2 lead going into the bottom of the fifth, but allowed four runs in the bottom half, and were unable to get the lead back, losing 6-5 to North Central College (NCC) at North Collier Park.
Senior shortstop Taylor Clugston (Bloomington, Ill.) went 2-for-4 with two singles, two stolen bases, and an RBI for the Cardinals (3-0). Senior center fielder Morgan Skoly (Vernon, Conn.) had her best outing of the season from the plate, hitting 2-for-4 with a triple, a single and two RBI for USJ.
Freshman pitcher Breanna Adams (Mundelein, Ill.) picked up the win (2-0), allowing three earned runs on four hits in seven innings. Sophomore pitcher Alessandra Milardo (Plantsville, Conn.) took the loss (0-4), allowing six runs (four ER) on six hits and eight walks in six innings. She also struck out six.
USJ took a 4-0 lead in the third, capped off by a Skoly single, driving in two runs. After the Cardinals cut the gap in half, the Blue Jays capitalized on a throwing error to get run number five. Up 5-2 into the bottom of the fifth, it appeared Saint Joe's was on their way to a victory, but NCC battled back with a four-run inning to take a 6-5 lead. They scored on one hit and two errors. The Blue Jays were only able to get two on base in the final two innings, unable to advance them across home plate.
In Game 2, the Blue Jays (5-7) were determined to cap off the week with a win and did so with the long ball for the first time this season, defeating Nazareth College (NC) 6-2, at North Collier Park.
Junior designated player McKenna Driscoll (Bristol, Conn.) launched the first USJ home run of the year (and the third of her career), highlighting a three-RBI afternoon. Senior third baseman Kara Klimaszewski (Naugatuck, Conn.) added in two RBI as well. Freshman right fielder Sarah Simmons (Victor, N.Y.) had a team-high two RBI for the Golden Flyers (4-5) on a home run to left field (her second this season).
Junior pitcher Amaria Sharon (Tolland, Conn.) pitched another complete game (third of the tournament), striking out six and walking just one. She allowed two earned runs (1 HR) on seven hits, good for her third win of the season (3-1). Junior pitcher Kylie Smith (Buffalo, N.Y) was dealt the loss, allowing five earned runs on six hits in just over three innings.
Klimaszewski and Driscoll both hit sacrifice flyouts for the first two runs. In the third, Klimaszewski lined one to left center, reaching second with a double. It also drove in a run. Like the last inning, Driscoll capped the one-two punch with a home run bomb down the left field line. One swing of the bat doubled the advantage, 5-0 USJ after three.
Senior center fielder Morgan Skoly (Vernon, Conn.) showed her quick thinking and quick feet, stealing two bases and scoring a run. In the fourth, Skoly stole third, then made it home on a throwing error. 6-0 USJ after four.
Simmons whacked a home run to left in the fourth to make it 6-2, but Sharon dialed herself back in, allowing three hits in the final three frames to finish strong. The Blue Jays took advantage of their base runners in the final game, leaving only two on base overall.
For USJ, the Gene Cusic Classic is complete. It's time to head home, where they will host Bay Path (MA) on Thursday, March 21 at 4:00 p.m. on the USJ Softball Field.