NEW BRITAIN, Conn. — The University of Saint Joseph (USJ) softball team bounced back with a walk-off RBI bunt single to draw even with Johnson & Wales University (JWU), in their first Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) doubleheader of the season Saturday on the CCSU Softball field, on the campus of Central Connecticut State University.
The Blue Jays (10-12, 1-1 GNAC) have split the last two doubleheaders, while the Wildcats (9-11, 1-1 GNAC) have lost five of their last six.
Game one was a duel between junior pitcher Kristin Frost (Pearl City, Hawaii) for JWU, and junior pitcher Amaria Sharon (Tolland, Conn.) for USJ, as both put up almost identical numbers. In the end, the Wildcats were able to drive home two runs in the fifth to take game one, 2-0.
Senior shortstop Brenna DuPerry (Cranston, R.I.) was the difference maker, belting a two-RBI single to center field that broke the tie. Senior first baseman Kayla McKinnon (Everett, Mass.) was an impressive 3-for-3, scoring on the go-ahead two-run single. Sharon did everything she could on both ends, hitting 2-for-4 with two singles.
Frost threw seven shutout innings in route to the win (3-3) and her fourth complete game of the season. She did allow eight hits, and got into several jams, but got out of them all unscathed, striking out eight. Sharon allowed the two runs on seven hits and struck out seven, also going the distance in defeat (4-3).
The Blue Jays left nine runners on base and had two great opportunities to take control of the game. In the bottom of the fifth (JWU shutdown inning), USJ loaded the bases with one out on back-to-back-to-back singles from sophomore second baseman Michelle Woodruff (Southington, Conn.), Sharon and senior third baseman Kara Klimaszewski (Naugatuck, Conn.). The Blue Jays were unable to get the runners home though; grounding into a fielder's choice and popping up to end the inning.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Blue Jays again had the go-ahead run up to bat, with runners at second and third with one out. Back-to-back strikeouts ended the rally, as Frost remained poised inside the circle. The two-run cushion was enough for victory.
In game two, USJ would not be denied, scoring four runs in the first inning alone. It came down to the end though, with the game tied 5-5 and the bases loaded, a walk-off RBI bunt single from senior center fielder Morgan Skoly (Vernon, Conn.) scored Klimaszewski from third on a play at the plate, giving the Blue Jays a dramatic 6-5 walk-off win.
Senior second baseman Isabella Russo (Southington, Conn.) came up clutch with an RBI single in the seventh to tie the game, 5-5, ultimately giving Skoly a chance to win it. Russo finished 2-for-4 with two RBI singles. Sharon was a perfect 4-for-4, putting on a clinic as far as placing the ball in play against a variety of pitches. Freshman pitcher Summer Ramundo (Lincoln Park, N.J.) finished 3-for-4 with an RBI for the Wildcats.
In the circle, freshman pitcher Natalie Amato (Cheshire, Conn.) came in early for relief, and picked up the win (5-2), allowing two runs on four hits in four and two-thirds innings of work. Ramundo was dealt the loss (2-5) in six and one-third (8 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 3 BB).
USJ took a commanding 4-0 lead after one inning, relying on small ball to score (four singles, sacrifice fly). The Wildcats made their move in the third inning, tacking on three runs to cut the gap to 4-3. A Ramundo single to center scored the third run of the inning.
It seemed the momentum was in JWU's hands despite trailing by one. They would change that with a run in the sixth and seventh to take a 5-4 lead. After trailing 4-0, it seemed nothing would stop them from finishing off the comeback in the bottom half.
Credit the Blue Jays though, they found their mojo one last time as the sun began to set. A single and an error put runners on first and second for Russo, who belted a single to center to tie it up. A sacrifice bunt and a walk later, and the bases were loaded with one out for Skoly. Skoly put the bunt down the third base line, and a charging Klimaszewski did everything in her power to score. The throw to the plate was close, but not in time, and the Blue Jay faithful celebrated a much-needed 6-5 victory to draw even in conference play.
USJ is headed to the road for another GNAC doubleheader Sunday, April 7, at 1:00 and 3:00 p.m. against Regis (MA). JWU plays a home doubleheader Sunday at 12:00 and 2:00 p.m. against Lasell (MA).