LITTLE RIVER, S.C. - The University of Saint Joseph softball team squandered two late leads and dropped a doubleheader against the Westminster (Mo.) College Blue Jays in its final day of action at the Fastpitch Dreams Classic on Tuesday afternoon at the North Myrtle Beach Sports Complex. USJ fell 5-3 in game one and then 4-2 in the tail end of the twin bill to conclude the season-opening spring trip with a record of 3-5.
GAME 1 - USJ (3) Westminster (5)
The University of Saint Joseph softball team jumped out to an early 3-0 lead over the Westminster (Mo.) College Blue Jays, but a sixth-inning grand slam by WC's Josie Cotter ultimately downed USJ, 5-3, in the first game of a doubleheader.
USJ got on the scoreboard first with a run in the top of the second inning. Sophomore Rachel Dube (Southington, Conn.) opened the inning with a single and then advanced all the way to third on a sacrifice bunt from classmate Kara Klimaszewski (Naugatuck, Conn.). Freshman McKenna Driscoll (Bristol, Conn.) stepped in next and ripped a single into right center field to give the Blue and Gold the early 1-0 edge.
St. Joseph added what looked like to be a pair of insurance runs in the top of the sixth inning to build a 3-0 advantage. Back-to-back one-out singles by Klimaszewski and Driscoll brought up freshman Bianca Pappacoda (East Haven, Conn.) with runners on first and second. The rookie laced a double into the left center field gap to drive in Klimaszewski to make it 2-0. Freshman Taylor Marino (Middlefield, Conn.) followed next with a RBI groundout to push the lead to 3-0 and concluded the scoring for USJ.
Entering the bottom of the sixth inning, USJ's freshman pitcher Amaria Sharon (Tolland, Conn.) was dominant and had subdued the Westminster bats, allowing just one hit over the first five frames. However, the Blue Jays finally got around to Sharon in the sixth and one big blast turned the game upside down.
A USJ error followed by two consecutive singles loaded the bases for Westminster. Amber Tepen drove in the first run with an RBI groundout and then two batters later after an intentional walk, Josie Cotter would put WC ahead for good. She blasted a grand slam down the left field line that snuck just over the fence to give Westminster a 5-3 lead and completely changed the momentum of the contest.
Down to its final three outs in the top of the seventh inning, USJ would get the tying run on base, but WC's Katie Price ended the threat and the game by inducing a groundout to complete the 5-3 comeback victory.
Sharon took the tough-luck loss in the circle, twirling a complete game and allowing five runs (four earned) on six hits and a walk. She struck out one and slips to 2-2 on the season. Price picked up the win after coming on in relief and pitching the final three innings. She struck out three.
Offensively, USJ out-hit Westminster in game one 9-6. Dube, Klimaszewski and Driscoll each picked up two hits apiece and Pappacoda finished 1-for-3 with a RBI double.
GAME 2 - USJ (2) Westminster (4)
In game two, Westminster cracked the scoreboard first and took the early advantage with a run in the top of the third inning. With runners on the corners and one out, Erica Burney drove a ball to deep center field scoring Kim Morrison with a sacrifice fly to put WC up 1-0.
USJ would answer back two innings later in the bottom of the fifth and tied the contest at 1-1 after a two-out RBI double off the red-hot bat of freshman Amaria Sharon. She ripped the offering down the left field line passed a diving third baseman to bring home sophomore Isabella Russo (Southington, Conn.) who singled through the right side earlier in the frame and started the two-out rally.
St. Joseph kept up the momentum and would take the lead in the bottom half of the next inning, taking advantage of a Westminster miscue. Freshman Brianna Barfield (North Attleboro, Mass.) singled and advanced into scoring position after the right fielder miss handled the base knock. Driscoll would then follow two batters later and cash in, driving in Barfield from second with a single up the middle to give USJ the lead, 2-1.
However, USJ would be snake bitten again late. Down to its final three outs, Westminster rallied in the top of the seventh and plated three runs to earn the 4-2 victory. A bases loaded wild pitch tied the game at 2-2 before a sacrifice fly by Tepen scored the game-winning run. Cotter added an insurance run for WC with an RBI single to make it 4-2 and Price retired USJ in order in the bottom of the seventh to secure the victory.
Freshman Nathalia Vega (Waterbury, Conn.) suffered the loss for USJ. She allowed three runs on eight hits and two walks over 6.1 innings of work. She struck out one. Price once again earned the victory in relief for WC. She spun the final 3.1 innings and struck out three.
St. Joseph cranked out eight hits in the setback. Sharon finished 1-for-4 with a RBI double and Driscoll went 1-for-1 with a RBI.
The USJ softball team will be back in action next on Thursday, March 30 when they return to Connecticut to face off with Bay Path in a doubleheader. The time and location of the contests are TBA.