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Amato, Blue Jays Give Coach McKinnon 300th Career Win

Amato, Blue Jays Give Coach McKinnon 300th Career Win

PROVIDENCE, R.I.  Behind another dominant performance on both ends from junior pitcher Natalie Amato (Cheshire, Conn.), the University of Saint Joseph (USJ) softball team took one of two at Johnson & Wales University (JWU), in a Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) doubleheader at the Scotts Miracle-Gro Athletics Complex on a gusty Thursday evening. With the win in game two, head coach Jim McKinnon earned his 300th career win at USJ, the most by any coach in school history. McKinnon is in his 16th season at USJ (most all-time) and led the Blue Jays to the 2019 GNAC Championship, their first in nearly 20 years.

The Blue Jays were looking mighty fine in game one, scoring six runs in the first two innings, but the Wildcats came roaring back with an eight-run third and fifth, respectively, securing the win in five innings, 17-8. The Blue Jays regrouped in game two, and behind a firework show from Amato, who threw seven innings of shutdown ball and hit a grand slam, Saint Joseph recovered for an 8-1 win to split the day.

COACH QUOTE [Jim McKinnon on 300 wins and the performance by Natalie Amato]
"I'm a third of the way to Jim Calhoun! [Laughs]. It's just an awesome feeling, you don't get to 300 wins without great players, and I am very fortunate to have had some great ones. I have to thank my coaching staff as well for all their hard work. This team, the way they bounced back today was something else. The first game we came out strong but made some errors, and when that happens things can sometimes get unusual. [JWU] is a very good hitting team, you just can't give them opportunities like that.

For Natalie Amato to shut the door against a team that scored that many runs in game one, just so good. We bounced back and showed a lot of heart. We've had some really good pitchers over the years like Patti Sciglimpaglia, Kristina Torres…you just can't touch her [Natalie's] stuff. It's not just the fastball. Her changeup was also terrific tonight, just a phenomenal overall performance."

GAME ONE

Score: Saint Joseph 8, Johnson & Wales 17 - 5 Innings
Records: USJ (4-3, 4-3 GNAC), JWU (15-3, 7-2 GNAC)
Location: Scotts Miracle-Gro Athletics Complex | Providence, R.I.

KEY MOMENTS

  • The Blue Jays brought brute force off the bus in game one, scoring the first six runs of the contest, highlighted by a two-RBI double by senior catcher Megan Burke (Parkland, Fla.) in the first, and a leadoff solo homerun from junior shortstop Ashlee White (Bristol, Conn.) in the second, the first of her career. Saint Joseph led 6-0 through two frames.
  • The Wildcats came out on a mission in the third (and later in the fifth), scoring 16 runs over two innings on 12 hits and three errors. The highlight came on a bases-clearing double from freshman shortstop Julia Huzi (Trumbull, Conn.), which gave JWU its first lead of the afternoon, 7-6.
  • Saint Joseph pitching fought back and at the plate USJ tied it up at eight-all on a solo homer from senior pitcher and captain Alessandra Milardo (Plantsville, Conn.), and an RBI groundout by Junior pitcher Julia Annecchiarico (Ludlow, Mass.).
  • A run was added in the fourth, and eight more came in the fifth for the Wildcats on five singles, a double, and a pair of errors. It was once again a freshman who did some serious damage, this time the first baseman, Hailey Erickson (Calimesa, Calif.), whose two-RBI double ended the contest via the mercy rule, 17-8.

IN THE CIRCLE

  • USJ – Milardo looked sharp early, putting up two scoreless innings with little to no issue. JWU opened things up though with 16 runs across two different innings, dealing the loss to Milardo (1-2), who allowed eight earned runs in four and a third of work. Annecchiarico threw a third of an inning in relief.
  • JWU – Sophomore Livia Feole (Cranston, R.I.) picked up the win (3-1), allowing five runs (3 ER) on five hits in four and a third. She also struck out two.

GAME TWO

Score: Saint Joseph 8, Johnson & Wales 1
Records: USJ (5-3, 5-3 GNAC), JWU (15-4, 7-3 GNAC)
Location: Scotts Miracle-Gro Athletics Complex | Providence, R.I.

KEY MOMENTS

  • A neck-and-neck game through two quickly got out of hand, as the Blue Jays scored in four consecutive innings. The big inning came in the third, as Amato took matters into her own hands with a grand slam over the right-field wall. The Blue Jays took a 5-1 lead after three.
  • Amato came right back up in the fourth and added a two-RBI single to right center. She had scored in the first inning on a bases-loaded walk, upping her total to six RBI on the game and two runs scored.
  • Amato had minimal trouble from start to finish, and struck out the side in order in the seventh inning to secure McKinnon's 300th win in style.

IN THE CIRCLE

  • USJ – Amato picked up the win (4-0), her fourth complete game of 2021, allowing one run (0 ER) on six hits, striking out seven. Amato has allowed 17 hits in 28 innings, but only one earned run and 31 strikeouts. Her 0.25 ERA leads the GNAC.  
  • JWU – Saint Joseph took it to the conference's win leader, junior Summer Ramundo (Lincoln Park, N.J.), knocking her out after two and a third innings of relief. Ramundo took just her third loss of the season (7-3), allowing five runs (3 ER) on four hits, including Amato's grand slam.

UP NEXT
The Blue Jays are headed home for a Senior Day doubleheader and rematch with intrastate and fellow GNAC rival, Albertus Magnus College. The action is scheduled for 12:00 and 2:00 p.m. respectively on Saturday, April 24 at the USJ Softball Field.

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