Big NEC Home Weekend Looms for Softball; Will Play Doubleheaders Against LIU Brooklyn and Mount St. Mary's

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Quinnipiac University Bobcats (7-21, 1-1 NEC)
vs. LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds (5-29, 1-3 NEC)
Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers (10-18, 2-4 NEC)

Saturday, April 6, 2013
LIU Brooklyn @ Quinnipiac – 1:00 p.m./3:00 p.m.
QU Softball Field – Hamden, Conn.

Sunday, April 7, 2013
Mount St. Mary's @ Quinnipiac – 12:00 p.m./2:00 p.m.
QU Softball Field – Hamden, Conn.

Big Weekend Ahead
This weekend represents one of the most important in the 2013 schedule for the Quinnipiac softball team as they enter a pair of NEC home doubleheaders in need of conference victories in order to maintain their currently place in the standings. The Bobcats will be playing LIU Brooklyn and Mount St. Mary's for a pair of doubleheaders from QU Softball Field. This is the first and only home weekend series where Quinnipiac will host two doubleheaders in the same weekend all season. The team will need to take advantage as they currently stand 7-21 overall and 1-1 in NEC play. They currently hold a share of the fourth and final playoff spot and need some wins to keep pace with the teams sharing the fourth spot as well as the teams ahead of them in the standings. 

LIU Brooklyn Scouting Report
The Blackbirds are the reigning Northeast Conference Champions as they won the 2012 NEC Tournament over the Bobcats in the Finals but have sputtered out of the gates this season. The Blackbirds were chosen to finish second in the NEC Preseason Coaches' Poll but have struggled to a 5-29 overall record with a 1-3 start through four conference games. The team is led by Roy Kortmann in his 19th season and the program has been the most successful in the NEC over the years as the Blackbird softball team has claimed 13 titles, the most in the league in any sport. They won three straight games last year's double elimination, three-day event, and claimed their title with a 10-5 win over Quinnipiac to secure the crown. The team is returning two All-NEC First Team honorees senior Karina Cervantes (.306 average, 37 hits, 23 runs, seven doubles, two triples in 2013) and sophomore Nichole Toven (.256 average, 14 RBI, .374 on-base in 2013). Junior pitcher Cassie Vondrak leads the pitching staff with three victories in 107 innings this season. Despite just the five victories in 34 games, the Blackbirds scored perhaps the most impressive victory of any NEC team this season as they knocked off then-No. 14 Michigan, 2-1, in the Florida Atlantic Kickoff Classic on Feb. 20. Vondrak held Michigan scoreless over the first six innings and allowed just six hits over seven frames to help lead her team to the win. The victory was the fourth over a nationally-ranked opponent in program history, and the first since the 2010 season. They also scored another impressive win against Florida Atlantic, 7-4, later that weekend but struggled ever since, reeling off two seperate 10-game losing streaks this season. They were swept by Central Connecticut at home and then split a doubleheader with Fairleigh Dickinson last weekend to recap their conference slate thus far. 

All-Time Against the Blackbirds
The Bobcats have had limited success against LIU Brooklyn through the years as they own a 2-19 record against the Blackbirds in 21 lifetime meetings. This includes a 0-6 record at home as the Bobcats lost 11 straight games to the Blackbirds from 2007 through 2012. Last season included a 10-5 loss in the NEC Championship and a 5-0 loss in the NEC Quarterfinal. The Bobcats did however score a 13-4 victory down in Brooklyn last year and also played to a tough 5-4 loss in Brooklyn as part of a weekend road doubleheader.

Mount St. Mary's Scouting Report
Picked the finish ninth out of 11 teams in the Northeast Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll, the Mountaineers have exceeded expectations thus far with a 10-18 record and 2-4 mark in conference play. The team split a pair of doubleheaders against Bryant and Fairleigh Dickinson earlier this season to represent the two conference wins and played NEC Preseason No. 1 Robert Morris tough in a weekend doubleheader, falling 5-0 and 2-1 at the hands of the Colonials. The squad has been playing well of late, coming in with a 4-3 win in 10 innings at home against Canisius on March 30 and then just defeated Towson 10-0 in five innings on Thursday. The Mountaineers are led by one of the most impressive duos in the NEC this season. Freshman infielder Rachel Gavigan leads the team in nearly every offensive category as she comes into the weekend with a team-high .300 batting average, 24 hits, five doubles, 17 RBI, 16 runs and eight stolen bases. Mount St. Mary's also possess one of the most dominate pitchers in the conference in junior Nicole Pagano. After finishing last season with a 1.77 ERA, third-best in the NEC, Pagano owns a 8-7 record this season with a 2.93 ERA in 15 starts and 88.1 innings. The reigning All-NEC Second Team honoree has struck out 105 batters this season in only 88.1 innings as her 8.32 strikeouts per-seven innings is one of the top marks in the league. The Mountaineers also possess another top hitter in Liz Christiansen who finishes last year with a .320 batting clip, 34 RBI and nine home runs to earn her a First Team All-NEC bid. She has struggled out of the gates with a .250 batting average but has drawn 20 walks this season which is among the conference leaders and sports an impressive .442 on-base percentage which is also high on the conference standings.

All-Time Against the Mountaineers
Quinnipiac has had relative success against Mount St. Mary's through the years as they own a 8-6 all-time record against the Mountaineers. The Bobcats are 4-2 at home lifetime against their opponents but have split the past five season series with Mount St. Mary's including a tightly contested matchup last year that saw the Bobcats win 2-0 and lose 1-0 in extra innings in a pair of games down in Maryland.

Stony Brook Series Recap
Not much went right for the Bobcats on Thursday in a doubleheader against Stony Brook on the road. The Bobcats were swept playing the Seawolves as they won 5-4 and 6-0 in two games on Thursday. Nikki Barba stood out as the only player to record a hit in both games played to extend her hitting streak to seven games while the entire team could only muster nine hits through the two games on Thursday. Katie Alfiere pitched well in her start in the first game of the doubleheader and chipped in a clutch two-run double in the fourth to bring the Bobcats into the lead at 4-3 but they couldn't hold on giving up the go-ahead RBI single in the bottom of the sixth to lose the first game, 5-4. The second game of the doubleheader was dominated by the Seawovles' pitching staff as they limited the Bobcats to just three hits in seven innings while they managed a 6-0 shutout victory to earn the sweep. 

Barbed Wire
Sophomore Nikki Barba has been one of the most well-rounded hitters at the plate for the Bobcats all season as she comes in with the team-lead in batting average (.383), on-base percentage (.451) and slugging percentage (.580). She also sports impressive hitting numbers across the board including hits (31), doubles (seven), home runs (three), RBI (15), walks (nine), stolen bases (two) and runs (15) as she ranks in the top-three on the team in all categories. Currently riding a seven-game hitting streak, Barba has been on a tear of late going 11-for-21 (.521 average) throughout the hitting spree.

The Solt-an of Swat
Freshman outfielder Courtney Solt has been one of the team's best player throughout the season in what has been a blistering start to her young career. She already has 34 hits, 19 runs, seven doubles, seven RBI, six stolen bases and a .358 batting average to lead the team in all categories. Her fielding has also been well above average as the rookie has committed just two errors all season while manning the left field position. Her season-high seven game hitting streak came to an end against Dartmouth but she batted over .600 during the span. She also posted a streak of four straight multi-hit games and five total through the eight-game spring break stretch down in Fla. 

Good Luck Striking Her Out
One of the nation's toughest batters to strikeout all season has been Courtney Solt. She enters the week ranked in the Top-20 in the nation as far as the Toughest to Strikeout. Solt has struck out just twice in 101 plate appearances this year (1.96 percent) which is good for 12th-best in the nation.

175 Club
Senior shortstop Alex Alba continues to climb up the all-time Quinnipiac career leaders as she became just the sixth player in program history to record 175 career hits. She knocked her 175th base hit in typical Alba style as she knocked a double in the first in the team's second matchup against Monmouth. She also is moving up the all-time doubles category as she currently stands tied for second with 40 career doubles and trails the program leader Sarah Collins '06 by just three as she holds the program record with 43.

Just Eight Away
Jordan Paolucci's home run against Monmouth was the 21th of her career as she now moves into sole possession of second place in the all-time record books for career home runs. She passed Sammi Allendorfer '07 and is just eight home runs shy of Sarah Collins' all-time record of 29 career dingers in a Bobcat uniform. 

Monumental Moment
Quinnipiac senior shortstop Alex Alba and freshman outfielder Courtney Solt both helped rewrite the record books last week as they claimed NEC Player of the Week and Rookie of the Week, respectively. It marked the first time since May 3, 2008 that the Bobcats have seized both weekly awards and just the second time in program history to feat has ever been accomplished. 

What a Relief It Is
Freshman pitcher Sydney Robey threw one of the best games of her young career on Friday, going seven strong innings allowing nine hits and just six hits to pick up her fourth victory of the season. That win gives her a team-high four on the season and moves her up to the .500 mark with a 4-4 overall record this year. 

Hits, Hits and More Hits
Senior shortstop Alex Alba had her hitting streak of 10 games snapped on Thursday against Stony Brook. The hitting streak is the longest for any Bobcat this season as Alba has absolutely torn the cover off the ball in the 10-game span with a .515 (17-for-33) batting average, 10 RBI, seven doubles, eight runs and two walks. 

Salgado to the Rescue
Senior outfielder Lauren Salgado came up with the most-clutch hit of the day for the Bobcats against UConn last Wednesday. With two outs and the bases loaded in the second and the score knotted at 1-1, Salgado laced a two-run single back up the middle to plate two and give her team the lead for good in the game. Despite batting only .165 this season, Salgado has been hot of late with a .242 average (8-for-33) over the past 12 games.

All-Time Leaders
Alex Alba and Jordan Paolucci are climbing up the program's all-time record books and are within reach of becoming the all-time leader in their respective offensive categories. After smashing seven doubles over the past three weeks, Alba now has 40 for her career, just three behind the all-time mark of 43 set by Sarah Collins '06. Paolucci currently sits second all-time in career home runs with 21, just eight behind Collins' all-time mark of 29.

Monumental Moment
Quinnipiac senior shortstop Alex Alba and freshman outfielder Courtney Solt both helped rewrite the record books last week as they claimed NEC Player of the Week and Rookie of the Week, respectively. It marked the first time since May 3, 2008 that the Bobcats have seized both weekly awards and just the second time in program history to feat has ever been accomplished. 

Uncharted Territory
Solt won the second Rookie of the Week honor of her career last week as she joins an impressive list of Heather Schwartzburg (2008), Krista Seeman (2007) and Kristin Sheriff (2005) as the only Bobcats to win multiple Rookie of the Week honors in program history. 

Streaking to the Top
One of the senior leaders on this Bobcat team, Alex Alba, had herself one of the most stellar weeks Quinnipiac has seen in quite some time. She earned her second career NEC Player of the Week and first since May 10, 2010 after compiling a .481 batting average (13-for-27), .517 on-base percentage (15-for-29) and .704 slugging percentage through eight games in Fla. Of her 13 hits, six of them were doubles as she now leads the team with seven on the season. She also chipped in an amazing nine RBI and eight runs scored through the week-long series of games.

Don't Stop at One
Sophomore catcher Jordan Paolucci had herself quite the week down in Fla. as she hit two grand slams during the spring break schedule. She hit her first career grand slam on Tuesday, March 12 in a showcase game against national power South Florida. It gave the Bobcats a 4-0 lead in a game which they competed throughout and only fell by a three-run deficit, 7-4. She then hit her second of the week on Saturday, March 16 against Colgate to help the Bobcat secure a 16-7 victory. 

Runs, Runs and More Runs
The Bobcats tied their program record with 16 runs scored to beat Colgate, 16-7, in five innings on Saturday, March 16. Quinnipiac tallied 16 hits on the afternoon to go along with a program record 12 runs scored in the third inning alone. The 16-run total tied a program record as the Bobcats hadn't scored that many runs in a game since March 3, 2006 when they beat Coppin St., 16-0. The Bobcats also scored 16 runs back in 2001 against St. Francis (Pa.) in a 16-4 victory. 

Two-Out Magic
The game against Colgate featured a program record 12 runs scored for the Bobcats in the third inning. One of the most impressive footnotes about the record-setting inning is the team trailed Colgate, 7-1, entering the frame and 11 of the 12 runs were scored with two outs. 

RBI Streak
Jordan Paolucci has had herself a nice start to the season with a team-high 19 RBI but she has really picked up her play of late as she rode an impressive seven-game streak with at least one RBI that ended on Friday, March 15 against Radford. 

Making the Right Moves
Quinnipiac head coach Germaine Fairchild made a lineup change down in Fla., dropping Jordan Paolucci down from her usual cleanup spot to the fifth position in the lineup while moving sophomore second baseman Nikki Barba into the fourth place in the Bobcat lineup. Paolucci has compiled a .244 batting average, four home runs and an impressive 15 RBI while Barba has batted .436 with one homer, eight RBI, six doubles and 10 runs scored in 13 games since making the move.

Cyr-tainly Better
One of the most improved players from last year's team has been sophomore outfielder Brittney Cyr. After not seeing any playing time through the first five games of the season, Cyr earned three starts from Mar. 1-2 batting at the number eight hole in the lineup before moving all the way up to number two in the Bobcat lineup between offensive stars Courtney Solt and Alex Alba. She certainly has taken advantage of the opportunity as has compiled 10 hits, four RBI, 10 runs and two stolen bases.

Senior Leader
One of the more under-the-radar stars for the Bobcats this season has been senior third baseman Bridget Figmic who comes into Tuesday as one of the Bobcats' key offensive contributors in several offensive categories including batting average (.253), on-base percentage (.341), walks (nine) and runs (11). She already has tallied four multi-hit games this season and knocked in two runs in three separate games last week.

She's Back!
Redshirt sophomore catcher Jordan Paolucci made her much-anticipated return to the Bobcat lineup earlier this year as she has  posted a .280 batting average (23-for-82), 10 runs, two doubles, six home runs, 22 RBI, four walks and two stolen bases. 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.

Schedule Overview
Another big week looms for the Bobcats as they will travel to Fairfield for a non-conference game on Wednesday before they play another four NEC games over the weekend as they travel to Wagner and Sacred Heart for doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday.

Contact: Maxx McNall;