WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – With the sure help of some angels in the outfield, the University of Saint Joseph (USJ) softball team completed a sweep of Rivier University (RU), and they did so in dramatic fashion, on the USJ Softball Field Friday.
The Blue Jays (21-15, 10-2 GNAC) were not so blue today, instead they were maroon and all wore number 17, as USJ Softball honored each victim of the Parkland, Florida school shooting last February. Sophomore catcher Megan Burke (Parkland, Fla.), a 2017 graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, dedicated this day to them, and it could not have been a better. The Blue Jays remain atop the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) South Division standings as the season enters its final week of play. USJ has won four in a row, while the Raiders (7-23, 3-11 GNAC) end a two-game win streak.
In game one, the Blue Jays found nine RBI from the first four hitters, and with another dominant defensive effort in the field, took home a 12-5 victory.
Senior shortstop Isabella Russo (Southington, Conn.) came up clutch from start to finish, hitting 1-for-3 with a double, a run, and four RBI. Junior pitcher Amaria Sharon (Tolland, Conn.) was 2-for-3 with a double, a single, three runs and three RBI. Senior left fielder Mikayla Ramsdell (Salem, N.H.) led the way for the Raiders with a double and two RBI.
Sharon tossed five big innings and picked up her ninth win of the season (9-5) inside the circle for USJ. She allowed three runs on 10 hits, striking out three. Junior pitcher Courtney Trahan (Brooklyn, Conn.) got the loss (1-5), allowing four runs on six hits in four and a third.
The Blue Jays wasted little time getting on the scoreboard, pushing across a run in the bottom of the first inning. Sharon ripped a single though the left side, before advancing to third on a single from senior Kara Klimasewski (Naugatuck, Conn.). Russo then drove her in with an RBI groundout to give USJ an early 1-0 lead.
Rivier answered in the top of the third inning with a trio of runs to take over the lead. The Raiders batted around the order in the inning and got clutch RBI hits from Ramsdell, and freshman catcher Hunter Greenleaf (Scarborough, Maine). Ramsdell got the visitors on the board with a two-RBI double to right-center. Greenleaf's single gave the Raiders a 3-1 lead.
USJ got one back in the bottom half of the third off the bat of junior designated player McKenna Driscoll (Bristol, Conn.), who singled up the left side. The Blue Jays regained the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning, breaking the game open with five runs. Sharon, Russo and Driscoll, the heavy hitters in the lineup, took care of business at the plate, and gave USJ a commanding 7-3 lead after four.
Both teams traded runs before USJ took total control in the sixth; a triple by first baseman Amanda Thiel (Torrington, Conn.) was the exclamation point, as freshman pitcher Julia Annecchiarico (Ludlow, Mass.) finished things off at the pitcher's plate in the seventh to take game one, 12-5.
Game two was a pitcher's duel, and it was won by the ace who nearly threw a no-hitter 24-hours before. Freshman pitcher Natalie Amato (Cheshire, Conn.) held serve for seven straight, and thanks to some heroics from Russo at the plate, USJ took game two, 3-2.
Russo finished 2-for-4 with a walk-off RBI single with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh. Junior right fielder Bianca Pappacoda (East Haven, Conn.) started the rally with a single, before reaching third base on a throwing error. She scored the winning run. Ramsdell had the sole RBI for the Raiders; a team leading third home run of the year in the top of the fourth to tie it 1-1.
Amato backed up her near no-hit bid with a solid seven inning performance again Friday (7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 7K), enough to tie a team-high ninth win on the year (9-3). Sophomore pitcher Kellie Kennedy took the loss (3-9), allowing three runs (2 ER) on eight hits in six and a third.
After a wild pitch by Amato tied the game at 2-2 in the top half, the Blue Jays showed they had their pitcher's back on the offensive end. After Pappacoda's single (and speed on the bases after the throwing error), the winning run was at third with one away. Sharon did what she does; another hit made it first and third with one out for Klimaszewski, who walked on four pitches to load the bases for Russo. After taking a strike, Russo smacked the ball nearly to the wall in the right center field gap, scoring Pappacoda easily, as USJ grabbed their second straight doubleheader sweep, putting them one step closer to clinching first place in the GNAC South Division.
The season is down to its last week of regular season action. USJ will look to remain in first in the GNAC South with another home conference doubleheader on Friday, April 26, at 3:00 and 5:00 p.m. against St. Joseph's College (ME). Rivier is headed home for a doubleheader on Tuesday, April 23 at 5:00 and 7:00 p.m. against Thomas (ME).