The Central Connecticut softball team topped the Bryant Bulldogs (5-14, 1-5 NEC) by a score of 8-1 in game one of a doubleheader at the CCSU Softball Field Friday afternoon, followed by an 8-0 shutout in game two. Freshman Evie Rentzel hit her third home run of the season, a grand slam, to drive in four RBI in the first game. With the victories, the Blue Devils improve to 16-9 on the season and 6-0 in the NEC.
Sophomore Laura Messina pitched both games for Central. She posted 14 strikeouts on the day breaking the 300 career strikeout mark. She is just 10 strikeouts shy of the CCSU career record of 313. Messina's game two shutout marks the 12th of her career. She allowed only seven hits on the day and improves her season record to 11-5.
"I'm very proud of how our team came out to play today," Head Coach Jeff Franquet said. "It is great to be this far into conference play and be undefeated, but we just take it one game at a time and hope we can continue this momentum into our doubleheader against Sacred Heart next Saturday."
The Bulldogs earned the first run of the day when lead-off batter Lauren Guy hit a home run down the right field line to put Bryant up 1-0 in the top of the first. Central closed the half inning on an expertly placed throw down from freshman catcher Hannah Cooper to classmate Eileen Purcell to catch Bryant's Aubrey Mable in an attempt to steal second.
The Blue Devils responded in the bottom of the first putting up four runs on a two-out grand slam by Rentzel. The freshman drove in sophomore Kat Malcolm and junior Tessa Brown, who both walked, and senior Kelsey Barlow who reached first on a single to third base. Central ended the inning with a 4-1 edge.
CCSU added another run in the bottom of the second when junior Arielle Bruno launched a double, her seventh of the season, to drive in senior Stephanie Chotkevys who was hit by a pitch to reach first.
The defense of both teams held up until the bottom of the sixth, when the Blue Devils put up three runs to extend the lead to 8-1. Senior Nicole Springer and freshmen Katie Schmidt and Gianna Sandstrom scored in the inning.
The Blue Devils posted five hits, six RBI and only one strikeout.
Both teams remained scoreless until the bottom of the third inning when the Blue Devils laid on a two-out six-run rally to get out to a sizable lead.
The first base-runner of the half inning was Sandstrom, who reached first on a walk. She advanced to second on a Bruno single to the pitcher and crossed the plate on a rip through the right side by Malcolm. With Malcolm on first and Bruno on second, Springer smacked a double to left field to drive them both home and put CCSU up 3-0.
Brown reached first on a walk and was followed by Barlow who sent her 22nd career home run soaring over the center-field fence for three RBI. Barlow drove in Brown and pinch-running senior Sarah Emery on the play to put the Blue Devils on top 6-0.
It was Central that struck again in the bottom of the fifth to score two additional runs, making the score 8-0 and ending the outing on an eight-run rule. The game is the seventh run-rule victory for the Blue Devils this season.
Springer singled and advanced on a wild pitch to get into scoring position for Central in the bottom of the fifth. She was followed by a Brown walk and Barlow, who reached base on a Bulldog error. With the bases loaded, Rentzel ripped a single through the left side to drive in Springer, unearned.
The bases remained loaded and pinch-running freshman Brittany Ernst scored on a wild pitch to tally the eighth run and end the game.
The Blue Devils posted seven hits, seven RBI and no fielding errors in game two.
CCSU returns to action next Saturday, April 6, to face the Sacred Heart Pioneers (16-9, 2-0 NEC). The doubleheader is set to begin at 1 p.m. at the CCSU Softball Field in New Britain, CT.