WEST HARTFORD, Conn.— The University of Saint Joseph (USJ) softball team's win streak came to an end at eight games on the USJ Softball Field Sunday, but they were able to split a doubleheader with Suffolk University (SU), and remain atop the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) South Standings as the season enters its final stages.
The Blue Jays (17-13, 6-2 GNAC) snapped a season-high eight game win streak, while the Rams (13-11, 3-1 GNAC) have won seven of their last nine.
In game one, the Blue Jay defense did not put a foot out of line, making a series of acrobatic catches and stops. The infield held off the charging Rams to the very end, taking game one 4-2.
Senior shortstop Isabella Russo (Southington, Conn.) had a game-high two RBI, which came on a double in the third inning to give the Blue Jays a commanding lead. Senior third baseman Kara Klimaszewski (Naugatuck, Conn.) finished 1-for-3 with an RBI single. Senior third baseman McKenzie McGrath (Exeter, N.H.) led the way for the Rams with an RBI double and a sacrifice fly.
Junior pitcher Amaria Sharon (Tolland, Conn.) picked up the win (7-4) in a complete game, allowing just two runs on eight hits. Freshman pitcher Kennedy Reyes (Taunton, Mass.) took the loss (5-3), allowing four runs (0 ER) on four hits.
USJ took control with a four-run third inning, as Sharon reached on an error, scoring one to tie the game at one. Klimaszewski followed it up with an RBI single up the middle to give Saint Joe's a 2-1 lead. Russo capped it off with a two-RBI double. 4-1 Blue Jays.
Sharon had a flawless defense behind her in game one, as sophomore second baseman Michelle Woodruff (Southington, Conn.) made several great plays on the ground, including an unassisted diving play at second to keep a runner out of scoring position in the fifth. Russo showed great reflexes with a line drive catch in the first, and with two outs and the tying run at the plate, Klimaszewski showed her athleticism at third, catching a laser line drive that was likely headed through the left side. The defense stepped up time and time again as the Rams tried to threaten, leaving seven runners on in total.
In game two, it seemed all was in hand as the Blue Jays took a 5-1 lead heading to the fifth inning, but the Rams broke free for a six-run fifth, taking full control of the game, winning 8-5.
Sophomore first baseman Kelly Keane (Hamilton, N.J.) had a game-high four RBI (two singles, one double), including the two-RBI single that tied the game at five. McGrath continued her dominance at the plate, hitting 3-for-4 with three singles and an RBI. The Rams had 18 hits overall, with all nine players in the lineup getting a hit. Klimaszewski led the way for the Blue Jays with a two-RBI single. USJ had plenty of chances to pour on the runs, as they left 13 runners on base.
Sophomore pitcher Constance Phelan (Longwood, Fla.) picked up the win in relief (3-2), allowing two runs (1 ER) on eight hits. Reyes picked up the save with a trouble-free seventh (1). Freshman pitcher Natalie Amato (Cheshire, Conn.) was dealt the loss (7-3), allowing three runs on five hits in one third of an inning of relief.
Three singles and a fielder's choice gave the Blue Jays a 5-1 lead. Freshman pitcher Julia Annecchiarico (Ludlow, Mass.) had some good stuff early, and left with a 5-2 lead. It was there in the fifth where the Rams capitalized, gaining momentum in the batter's box. Keane's two-RBI single (advanced to second on the throw home) sent the SU dugout in a frenzy. It seemed the inning would never end, as the Rams tacked on two more runs on heads up base running, a throwing error, and a single. An inning later, Keane was at it again, doubling to left field to add a much-needed insurance run.
Down 8-5, USJ did get a runner to first in the seventh, but had no two-out rally this time, as SU scored seven unanswered to take a split on a sunny Sunday doubleheader.
USJ will return to action in another GNAC doubleheader on Tuesday, April 16, at 3:00 and 5:00 p.m. against Coast Guard (CT). Suffolk is home for a doubleheader also on Wednesday, April 17 at 3:00 and 5:00 p.m. against Norwich (VT).