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Blue Jays Split With Falcons On Sunny Senior Day

Photo taken by USJ Athletics - April 24, 2021
Photo taken by USJ Athletics - April 24, 2021

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – Backed by some Senior Day magic, and another shutout performance from junior pitcher Natalie Amato (Cheshire, Conn.), the University of Saint Joseph (USJ) softball team split a pair once again with intrastate rival Albertus Magnus College (AMC), in a Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) doubleheader on a sunny Saturday afternoon at the USJ Softball Field.

Head coach Jim McKinnon was honored in the pregame with a commemorative softball after earning his 300th career USJ Softball win on Thursday night, the most by any coach in school history. A flock of five seniors were also recognized for their career contributions to the program. Second baseman Michelle Woodruff (Southington, Conn.), catcher Megan Burke (Parkland, Fla.), pitcher Alessandra Milardo (Plantsville, Conn.), third baseman Brianna Barfield (North Attleboro, Mass.) and first baseman Amanda Thiel (Torrington, Conn.) were all recognized prior to the first pitch.

It turned out to be a pitcher's duel in game one, as Milardo went back and forth with AMC's senior pitcher Laura Anderson (East Haven, Conn.), retiring the side and squeezing out of jams throughout. The Falcons ultimately prevailed in extra innings, 2-1, on an RBI single in the top of the ninth. Amato continued her dominant stretch inside the circle in game two (33 consecutive scoreless innings) with her third complete-game shutout, as the Blue Jays were well in control in a 4-0 win to split the series.

PLAYER QUOTE [Natalie Amato]
"I really just trust my defense behind me. I am attacking the strike zone, and they are there to make the plays. Kacy [O'Connor] has been calling a great game, she is very smart back there. All of us are working together, it has been great."

COACH QUOTE [Jim McKinnon]
"Today was about our five seniors. The underclassmen did a great job coming out and decorating the field with the pictures and all that. The first game definitely could've gone either way, but we showed heart again. In the second game, Natalie [Amato] again shut the door, and we were able to get some runs off them quickly. Great day all the way around."

GAME ONE
Score: Albertus Magnus 2, Saint Joseph 1 - 9 Innings
Records: AMC (7-4, 7-2 GNAC), USJ (5-4, 5-4 GNAC),
Location: USJ Softball Field | West Hartford, Conn.

KEY MOMENTS

  • Milardo and Anderson duked it out for nine innings, each tossing well over 100 pitches. We had a scoreless first five before AMC finally get one across home plate. Anderson got it started in the batter's box after reaching first on an error. Two batters later, catcher Erin Molkenthin (East Haddam, Conn.) smacked an RBI double into left to break the tie. 1-0 Albertus heading to the bottom of the seventh.
  • It was the last chance for the Blue Jays, who opened up with a leadoff single from Woodruff. Woodruff then made it to second base with two outs for sophomore shortstop Taylor Verboven (Columbia, Conn.). Verboven came up clutch with a single to left field, erupting the dugout and tying the score. We were headed to extra innings deadlocked at one.
  • Both teams left the bases loaded in the eighth. In the ninth, AMC gave the Blue Jays a taste of their own medicine with a two-out single to left to score the second run. The Blue Jays had one last chance yet again, putting runners on second and third with one out. Give credit to Anderson though, who stuck it out to the end and did not look phased at all Saturday, as she forced two flyouts to close out a hard-fought 2-1 win in nine innings.

IN THE CIRCLE

  • USJ – Milardo gave it 110% on the USJ Softball Field Saturday, but was dealt the loss (1-3) despite not allowing a single earned run. She went all nine innings (127 pitches), allowing two runs (0 ER) on seven hits and striking out four. The Blue Jays, who are averaging over five runs per game this season, have faced two tough 2-1 losses this season where Milardo has started (she has not given up a single earned run in both of those starts).
  • AMC – Laura Anderson was tremendous in game one Saturday, securing her fifth win of 2021 (5-2) behind just one earned run and four whiffs in nine innings of work.

GAME TWO
Score: Albertus Magnus 0, Saint Joseph 4
Records: AMC (7-5, 7-3 GNAC), USJ (6-4, 6-4 GNAC),
Location: USJ Softball Field | West Hartford, Conn.

KEY MOMENTS

  • The Blue Jays got ahead early with three quick runs in the first on a single and a series of wild pitches and throwing errors. It was 3-0 USJ before you blinked.
  • Amato continued to mow down the Falcons, while Saint Joseph tacked on an extra run in the fifth on an RBI single from freshman Kailee Snyder (Brookfield, Conn.) in her first career at-bat. 4-0 USJ after five.
  • Amato had little to no trouble in the final two stanzas, allowing just two hits. One of her seven strikeouts came in the final at-bat to close out the ballgame. 

IN THE CIRCLE

  • USJ – Amato picked up the win (5-0), her fifth complete game of 2021, and her third shutout of the season, striking out seven and only allowing three hits. Amato extended her consecutive scoreless innings streak to an incomparable 33 innings.  
  • AMC  Freshman Angela Grindrod (Stratford, Conn.) took the loss (1-1), allowing three runs in zero-plus innings. Sophomore pitcher Bernadette Kingsbury (Trumbull, Conn.) cleaned up in relief, allowing just one run in five innings of work. She also struck out a doubleheader-high eight batters.

UP NEXT
It's back to the road for the Blue Jays, who will take on Lasell University on Tuesday, April 27 at 3:00 and 5:00 p.m. respectively in more GNAC action.

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