Cooper Delivers Game-Winner as Softball Tops FIU in Season Opener, 6-5

Cooper Delivers Game-Winner as Softball Tops FIU in Season Opener, 6-5

Senior Hannah Cooper ripped a single up the middle with the bases loaded to drive in the game-winning RBI in the top of the seventh inning as the Central Connecticut softball team battled for a, 6-5, comeback win over Florida International in the Blue Devils 2016 season opener. The Blue Devils move to 1-0 on the season and drop FIU to 8-3 overall with the win on Thursday night at Felsburg Field at the FIU Softball Stadium in Miami, FL.

The Blue Devils wasted little time getting on the scoreboard in their lid lifter, pushing across a run in the top of the first inning. Sophomore Alexis Debrosse got things going for CCSU as she ripped a double off the base of the fence in right-center field to lead off the game. Senior Eileen Purcell then moved Debrosse over to third with a sacrifice bunt and three batters later, senior Evie Rentzel delivered with a clutch two-out RBI double down the left field line to give Central an early 1-0 lead.

Central added to its lead and made it 4-0 as they sent seven to the plate in the top of the third inning. Purcell opened the big inning with a single that was chopped over the head of FIU's third baseman. Sophomore Tori Constantin followed and was hit in the knee before freshman Kaitlin Paterson reached on a fielder's choice to load the bases with Blue Devils.

Rentzel then came through again, picking up her second RBI the game, as she singled over the head of the pitcher to plate Purcell for the first run of the inning. Cooper followed with a RBI groundout to short to make it 3-0 and then sophomore Brittany McNulla blooped a double down the right field line for her first hit as a Blue Devil to score Paterson and account for the 4-0 lead.

The Panthers responded though in the bottom of the third and in a big way as junior Stephanie Texiera smashed a three-run home run over the center field wall to cut their deficit to 4-3. Back-to-back one-out singles by FIU setup the three-run blast by Texiera, her team-leading fifth home run of the season.

FIU then tied it up, 4-4, in the bottom of the fourth inning. Senior Aleim Lopez opened the frame with a lead off double to left-center field before coming around to score on a two-out RBI single to left-center by junior Ashley Leon.

The Panthers kept their foot on the pedal as they took their first lead of the game in the bottom of the fifth inning. A fielding error followed by a throwing error put junior Gabby Spallone on second base with one out. Sophomore A.J. Belans then came up with the clutch hit for FIU as she muscled a single down the left field line to score Spallone and give the Panthers the 5-4 lead.

Central didn't quit however, showing resilience as they rallied in the top of the seventh inning for the dramatic victory. Debrosse started the final inning with a lead off walk to put the tying run on base. Purcell followed with a sacrifice bunt, but also reached safely as the Panthers unsuccessfully tried to get the lead runner out at second. Constantin then singled through the left side of the infield to load the bases before Paterson drew a hit-by-pitch to plate the tying run.

After a shallow fly out, Cooper came to the dish. The senior took matters into her own hands as she laced a 3-2 pitch through the box and into center field to plate Purcell for the go-ahead run. Sophomore Emily Sargent, who came on in relief in the fifth inning, retired the Panthers in order in the bottom of the seventh to give the Blue Devils the 6-5 victory.

Cooper finished the game 1-for-4 with a pair of RBI's. Rentzel and McNulla both posted multi-hit games finishing 2-for-4 at the plate with a double, respectively. Rentzel drove in two RBI and McNulla had one. Patterson picked up the last RBI going 0-for-1 with a pair of walks and a run scored in her collegiate debut.

Debrosse also had a nice night for the Blue Devils in her first game of the year after missing all of the 2015 season due to injury,  finishing 1-for-3 with a double and two runs scored.

Sargent recorded the win for CCSU twirling the final 2.1 innings after coming on in relief in the fifth inning. She didn't allow a hit and faced just one over the minimum with one strikeout. Freshman Alex Casañas got the start in the season opener and went 4.2 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on nine hits and walk. She finished with one strikeout.

The CCSU softball team will return to action next on Friday as they begin the Felsburg Invitational Tournament hosted by FIU. They will first play Delaware at 2 p.m. before facing off with FIU again tomorrow night at 7 p.m.

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