The Central Connecticut softball team topped the Quinnipiac Bobcats in two back-to-back eight run rules with scores of 9-0 and 10-2 on Sunday. Senior Kelsey Barlow hit her 27th home run of her career in game one and added a grand slam to her record in game two. Junior Arielle Bruno also hit a homer of her own in game one, the 16th of her career. Central's record improves to 30-13, 16-4 in the NEC.
With 16 conference wins, the Blue Devils have won the most single-season conference games in CCSU history and clinch a spot in the 2013 NEC Tournament from May 9-11. They are also guaranteed at least a share of the NEC regular season title with the wins.
This is the first time the Blue Devils have completed the regular season in the top four. They are also just one overall win short of the CCSU single-season win record.
Sophomore Laura Messina, who is ranked seventh in the nation in shutouts and owns the CCSU record, registered her 11th shutout of the season, the 18th of her career, in the game one victory. She threw a three-hitter to hand the Bobcats their seventh NEC loss and totaled six strikeouts on the day to break her own single-season strikeout record. Quinnipiac is now 15-31 overall and 8-8 in NEC play.
"It was great to finish out our regular-season NEC games with two more wins," Head Coach Jeff Franquet said. "I am really proud of our team and how well they've played. We are excited to clinch a spot in the tournament and hope to finish out our season strong."
The Blue Devils earned the first run of the game when sophomore Kat Malcolm sent a double to right center to score Bruno in the top of the third. Senior Nicole Springer stepped up to the plate and singled to right field to plate Malcolm and put Central up 2-0.
Central held onto the 2-0 lead until a big fifth inning in which the Blue Devils scored seven runs to ultimately end the game on an eight run rule. Bruno led off the inning with a solo homer to left field followed by a Malcolm single and a Springer double to bring Malcolm in and put CCSU up by four.
Following a pitcher change by the Bobcats, Barlow sent a bomb to left field to plate Springer and increase the lead to six.
Central added another run to the board when pinch running senior Sarah Emery scored on a wild pitch and freshman Eileen Purcell followed on a single by senior Stephanie Chotkevys. Purcell reached base on a single of her own.
The Blue Devils wrapped up the scoring with a Brown double to left center to plate senior Lauryn Alibozek for the ninth run.
CCSU amassed 11 hits in the game compared to just three for the Bobcats. Bruno and Malcolm led Central at the plate with two hits and two runs each. Purcell and Springer each added two hits and one run.
Central took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first when a single by Barlow drove in Bruno who had reached on a single up the middle.
The Blue Devils added another run to the board in the top of the second when Malcolm doubled to right center to plate freshman Brittany Ernst, who reached base on a fielder's choice.
Messina allowed two runs in the bottom of the second to tie up the game before Central exploded in the top of the third for another seven-run rally.
The Blue Devils loaded the bases in the top of the third before freshman Hannah Cooper was hit by a pitch. She advanced to first to plate freshman Evie Rentzel and regain the lead. Freshman Kenya McVey singled to shortstop to drive in Brown and was followed by an RBI single from Chotkevys to put Central up by three.
With two outs in the top of the fifth and the Blue Devils holding a narrow 5-2 lead, Barlow blasted her second homer of the day for a grand slam. She drove in Malcolm, Ernst and McVey on the play to put Central up 9-2.
Purcell doubled in the top of the fourth, her eighth of the season, and was driven in by a McVey single to increase the lead to eight.
The Blue Devils were led in game two by Malcolm and Barlow who each went two-for-four at the plate and scored one run. Purcell and Ernst scored two runs and McVey went two-for-two at the plate, scoring one run. Central totaled nine hits in the win, drew four walks and left seven on base. The Bobcats were allowed six hits and only one walk.
Central will close the regular season at Maryland-Eastern Shore on Wednesday, May 1, in Princess Anne, MD. The doubleheader is set to begin at 1 p.m.