Softball Travels Down to Florida for Five Games in USF Under Armour Invitational This Weekend

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USF Under Armour Invitational
Eddie C. Moore Complex – Clearwater, Fla.

Quinnipiac University Bobcats (1-3, 0-0 NEC)
Loyola Chicago Ramblers (1-2, 0-0 Horizon)
Illinois-Chicago Flame (0-10, 0-0 Horizon)
Providence Friars (2-3, 0-0 BIG EAST)
Loyola Marymount Lions (4-6, 0-0 WCC)
Kent St. Flash (4-6, 0-0 MAC)

USF Under Armour Invitational Schedule
Friday, March 1, 2013

Quinnipiac vs. Loyola Chicago – 3:45 p.m.
Illinois-Chicago vs. Quinnipiac – 6:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 2, 2012
Quinnipiac vs. Providence – 2:45 p.m.
Loyola Marymount vs. Quinnipiac – 5:00 p.m.
Sunday, March 3, 2012
Quinnipiac vs. Kent St. – 9:00 a.m. 

Weekend Stay in Florida
The Quinnipiac softball team will head down to Clearwater, Fla. to take part in the USF Under Armour Invitational where the Bobcats will play a five-game set from March 1-3. The team is coming off a 1-3 weekend while playing at the UNCG Spartan Classic and will now look to push their way over the .500 mark against some competition from all across the country. Games loom against the Horizon League's Loyola Chicago and Illinois-Chicago on Friday. Then they will play the BIG EAST's Providence Friars as well as Loyola Marymount on Saturday before the team's final game against Kent St. on Sunday. All games will be played at the Eddie C. Moore Complex located in Clearwater.

A Look at Loyola Chicago

The Ramblers come into the weekend with a 1-2 record and also own one of the nation's hottest hitters in Lauren Moore. She comes in with a .500 batting average but has slugged two home runs already this season in just three games played. Moore leads the team in every offensive statistical category and the junior infielder will definitely be a key to stop for the Bobcat pitching staff. Loyola Chicago was picked to win the Horizon League in the annual preseason poll of the League's coaches which is the first time since 2008 that the Ramblers have been picked to win the conference. They will also feature one of their top players in program history in senior outfielder Brooke Andresen as she enters the weekend with 169 hits (8th all-time) with 87 career runs scored and a career .346 batting average. Lefthander Brittany Gardner headlines the pitching staff as she compiled an 18-10 record, 2.69 ERA and 205 strikeouts last season. She tossed her second career one-hitter in a game earlier this season and already appears to be in mid-season form for the Ramblers.

Scouting the Flames
The UIC softball team looks to pick up their first victory of the season at the USF Under Armour Invitational as they come in with an 0-10 record to start the year. They enter the fray following trips to New Mexico State and Arizona State for a pair of five-game tournaments. Natalie Hernandez leads the Flames offensively with a .452 batting average as she has recorded 14 hits and six RBI this season.

Challenging the Friars
The Friars opened the year at the Florida Atlantic "Strike-Out Cancer" Tournament in Boca Raton, Fla. where they went 2-3.  The Friars collected wins over Connecticut (2-1) and Northern Illinois (13-7).  Sophomore Sarah Kitterman led the team in their two victories, recording a .400 batting average on six hits in 15 at bats over the weekend. She also registered one double, one triple, two homeruns and seven RBI, landing her on the BIG EAST Honor Roll on Feb. 25.

Loyola Marymount's Report
LMU enters the trip with a 4-6 record, having gone 3-2 at the Red Desert Classic on opening weekend and 1-4 last week at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Palm Springs. Entering the week, sophomore second baseman Sterling Shuster leads the Lions at the plate with a .414 batting average. In 10 games, Shuster has 12 hits, including three doubles, while scoring a pair of runs and collecting four RBIs. Also batting over .300 are senior Olivia Alvarez and junior Meghan Harman. Alvarez has one double and a team-high six RBIs to her name while Harman ties for the team lead with two home runs. As a team, the Lions are batting .259. The Lions' pitching staff holds a combined .375 ERA. Dana Waldusky has a pair of wins to her credit, including one shutout. Sydney Gouveia is 1-1 with 22 strikeouts in 17 innings and Molly Medeiros is 1-1 with a 3.71 ERA in four appearances.

Kent State's Success
The Flash enter the weekend with just a 4-6 record but challenged the No. 17 nationally ranked Louisville Cardinals to a 3-2 loss last weekend. Kent St. will be a tough opponent as they employ a balanced pitching staff with Emma Johnson (2.23 ERA, 31.1 innings, 28 strikeouts) and Lauren McNeil (3.94 ERA, 21.1 innings, 20 strikeouts) come in leading the way for the Flash on the mount. Kent St. has struggled producing runs this season however, as they come in with only one home run so far in 10 games and are batting just .214 as a team. Kim Kirkpatrick owns the team's highest batting average at .350 but no one else is above .300 for the season.

UNCG Spartan Classic Recap
The Bobcats are coming off a 1-3 weekend down in Greensboro, N.C. for the UNCG Spartan Classic. The team kicked off the weekend with a 6-1 loss to Marshall on Saturday before slugging back-to-back-to-back home runs in a 10-8 loss to the host UNCG. Jordan Paolucci, Kourtney Kesses and Nikki Barba all went deep in the series as the Bobcats came one home run shy of matching the NCAA record they tied last season with four straight dingers against Sacred Heart. In Sunday's action, the Bobcats scored their first win of the season on the backs of sophomore Hannah Lindsley who twirled a complete game one-hitter to give the Bobcats a 1-0 victory. Alex Alba drove in the game-winning run in the top of the seventh with two outs and Bridget Figmic on second. Quinnipiac closed out the tournament with a 9-1 setback against UNCG in five innings.

Lindsley's Gem
Sophomore Hannah Lindsley kickstarted her season with the most impressive outing of her career. In just her second career start, Lindsley tossed a complete game one-hitter against Drexel to help her Bobcats to a 1-0 victory. It was Lindsley's first career victory as she posted five strikeouts on Sunday against the Dragons.

Senior Leader
Senior third baseman Bridget Figmic comes into the second weekend set as the Bobcats' offensive leader in several offensive categories including batting average (.571), on-base percentage (.727), walks (three) and runs (three). Her highlight of the weekend was in the Drexel game as Figmic scored from second on an Alex Alba single to score the only run of the contest.

She's Back!
Redshirt sophomore catcher Jordan Paolucci made her much-anticipated return to the Bobcat lineup over the weekend as she posted an impressive .300 batting average (3-for-10), two runs, one double, one home run, one walk and one stolen base. The 2011 NEC Rookie of the Year missed a majority of last season due to injury after slugging a program record 15 home runs in 2011.

Home Run Barrage
The Bobcats are less than one year removed from having tied the NCAA record with four consecutive home runs on April 1, 2012 against Sacred Heart. The power was supplied by the heart of the Bobcat lineup as sophomore Jordan Paolucci, sophomore Nikki Barba and senior Kortney Kesses combined to supply the power. For Kesses, it was the first home run of her career while Barba knocked her third and Paolucci recorded the 16th of her career.

Hot Streak
Sophomore second baseman Nikki Barba was the Bobcats' hottest hitter at the end of last season, closing the year on a six-game hitting streak heading into 2013. She has since kept the string alive as she has reached base safely in all four games to start the season, pushing her streak to 10 games in-a-row. During the stretch Barba has compiled a .448 batting average (13-for-29).

Coming Through in the Clutch

Senior shortstop Alex Alba began the year with a 3-for-14 weekend at the UNCG Spartan Classic but one of those three hits was significant as it came in the top of the seventh inning with two outs and Bridget Figmic on second base. The single up the middle scored Figmic which was the game's first and only run to lift her team to a 1-0 victory.

Preseason Selection
The Bobcats were recently selected to finish sixth in the 2013 Northeast Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll, as announced by the league office on Tuesday, Feb. 12. Robert Morris, the 2012 regular season champion, was chosen to win the conference with six first-place votes. Defending tournament champion LIU Brooklyn was picked second with five first-place votes. Next came Central Conn. St. Monmouth, and Bryant followed by the Bobcats. Sacred Heart landed the seventh position, St. Francis (Pa.) is eight, Mount St. Mary's ninth, and Wagner and Fairleigh Dickinson rounded out the field.

Early Honors
Senior shortstop Alex Alba was recently honored by College Sports Madness as a Preseason All-NEC Second Team honoree. The leader in the middle of the infield of the Bobcats' infield and at the plate led the team in several offensive categories last season including home runs (seven), RBI (32) and slugging percentage (.581). She also led all NEC players with 15 doubles and all conference shortstops in fielding percentage (.969). She hopes to translate her success from last season, where she earned a spot on the All-NEC Second Team, into another sensation season in her fourth year with Quinnipiac.

Last Season Recap
The Bobcats finished 2012 with their second straight 32-win campaign and second consecutive trip to the NEC Championship. Despite advancing to the championship round, Quinnipiac couldn't get past LIU Brooklyn who advanced to the NCAA Regional with their 10-5 victory.

2012 Award Winners
The team held their annual banquet back in Oct. where the Bobcat honored four players with end-of-the-season awards. Pitcher Heather Schwartzburg, as previously announced at the Quinnipiac Department-wide Awards Ceremony in May, was named Most Valuable Player. Outfielder Christy Cabrera was named Offensive Player of the Year, shortstop Alex Alba was named Defensive Player of the Year and Ashley Heiberger received the Spirit of the Bobcat Award.

You Will be Missed
The Bobcats graduated a core of four seniors last season that were all significant contributors not only in 2012 but throughout their four years at Quinnipiac. The Bobcats said goodbye to their best pitcher in program history, Heather Schwartzburg. She graduated with the most career wins (78), innings pitched (833.9), lowest ERA (1.51) and shutouts (20) of any pitcher ever at Quinnipiac. Also among the graduates was outfielder Christy Cabrera, the Bobcats' leadoff hitter, who finished first on the team in batting average (.342), on-base percentage (.412), hits (54), walks (19) and runs scored (32). Two other major departures including outfielder Mina Duffy (team-high seven home runs, 30 RBIs) and catcher Ashley Heiberger (19 runners caught stealing, eight stolen bases, .985 fielding percentage).

It's Good to Have You Back
Coming off a 2011 NEC Rookie of the Year and All-NEC First Year season, catcher Jordan Paolucci missed most of 2012 due to injury. Paolucci ended up redshirting last season and returns fully healthy in 2013 as the starting catcher. As a freshman in 2011, Paolucci led the team with a stellar all-around campaign including a .351 batting average, 40 runs, three doubles, .702 slugging percentage, .497 on-base percentage and 10 stolen bases. She led the team in all six of those categories while also slugging a Quinnipiac single-season record 15 home runs in 2011 as she led the NEC in that category as well as total bases (106).

Core Four
One of the biggest strengths for the Bobcats entering 2013 is their infield as they return all four starters from last season. Three of the four returnees are seniors including shortstop Alex Alba, third baseman Bridget Figmic and first baseman Jacquie Ristow. Alba led the team in several offensive categories and shined defensively as well. Figmic enters her third season as the team's primary third baseman as she started all 50 games in 2012 at the hot corner and committed only six errors on her way to a .965 fielding percentage to go along with 23 hits. Ristow will see a majority of her time at first base where she led the infield with a .983 fielding percentage and also collected 30 hits, 10 runs scored, three doubles, one home run and 14 RBI. The final returning piece is sophomore second baseman Nikki Barba who closed the year with a .285 batting average (37-for-130). As a freshman, Barba showed incredible plate disciplines, drawing the second-most walks (15) on the team, as well as 17 runs, six stolen bases and 14 RBI. Much like the rest of the infield, Barba shined defensively with a .957 fielding percentage.

Youth in the Outfield
Expect youth to loom large in the outfield positions this season for the Bobcats as they return one of three starters from last season. Senior center fielder Lauren Salgado returns after compiling 25 hits, 15 runs, one triple, eight RBI and seven stolen bases. Her speed is unmatched on the 2013 roster while the Bobcats will have to fill the other two outfield spots.

On the Mound
The Bobcats will be hard pressed to replace their best pitcher in program history but they are lucky enough to have on their hands another one of the top hurlers in the NEC last season. Junior Katie Alfiere will most likely step in as the team's ace after she put together a solid 7-3 record and 2.45 ERA in 68.2 innings last season. She finished second on the team in ERA, wins and tossed three complete games. She stood out in several categories amongst pitchers in the NEC as she gave up the fewest hits (68), runs allowed (29), earned runs allowed (24), and home runs allowed (zero) of any pitcher in the conference. Her 2.45 ERA was good for 7th in the NEC and unlike Schwartzburg, who was a strikeout pitcher, Alfiere very much pitches to contact as evidenced by her 24 strikeouts in 68.2 innings but with all four infield starters returning as stellar defensive players she is primed for a breakout season.

A Slew of Newcomers
The 2013 Bobcats will include a significant amount of freshman as eight will be entering their rookie campaigns with Quinnipiac. The freshmen include Dani EdmandsNicole GubelliniMolly JarrettAbby JohnsonSydney RobeyAbbey SmithCourtney Solt and Noelle Wager. Three of the first-years are pitchers in Gubellini, Jarrett and Robey while four are also listed as utility players. Two catchers in Edmands and Wagner now allow the Bobcats to go three-deep at the position after Ashely Heiberger played in nearly 50 games as the team's starting catcher last season.

Schedule Overview
The Bobcats begin the 2013 season at the Lancer Lead-Off Classic from Feb. 16-17. They will next travel to the UNC Greensboro Spartan Classic for five games between Feb. 22-24 and then begin a 15-game set as part of the USF Under Armour series in Tampa, Fla. and Clearwater, Fla. The series will span from March 1 through 17 with a home doubleheader against Hartford in between on March 6. In between the Under Armous series is a headlining matchup against 2012 NCAA College World Series Finalist South Florida on Tuesday, March 12 at 5:00 p.m.

Contact: Maxx McNall;