March 18, 2014

Five Games in Four Days Awaits QU Softball as they Travel to FDU on Thursday, Towson Invitational This Weekend

Quinnipiac University Bobcats (2-15, 0-0 MAAC)
Fairleigh Dickinson Knights (7-10, 0-0 Northeast Conference)
Towson Tigers (12-8, 0-0 Colonial Athletic Association)
Wagner Seahawks (7-11, 0-0 Northeast Conference)


Thursday, March 20, 2014 (FDU Softball Field – Teaneck, NJ)
Quinnipiac @ Fairleigh Dickinson – 12:00 p.m.
Quinnipiac @ Fairleigh Dickinson – 2:00 p.m.
Friday, March 21, 2014 (Towson Softball Complex – Baltimore, Md.)

Quinnipiac @ Towson - 3:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 22, 2014 (Towson Softball Complex – Baltimore, Md.)
Wagner vs. Quinnipiac – 2:00 p.m.
Sunday, March 23, 2014 (Towson Softball Complex – Baltimore, Md.)
Wagner vs. Quinnipiac – 12:00 p.m.

The Quinnipiac softball team continues their manic March schedule with five games in four days. They begin their trek down the East Coast with a Thursday road doubleheader against an old Northeast Conference foe in Fairleigh Dickinson. After the two games on Thursday, the Bobcats will continue their road trip down to Baltimore where they will participate in the Towson Invitational for one game against the host Tigers and two against another former conference foe in Wagner to wrap up the weekend.

All-Time Against the Competition
This weekend should feel awfully familiar to Bobcat fans as they will play four games against traditional Northeast Conference foes. In what is Quinnipiac's first season as a member of the MAAC, the Bobcats will continue annual rivalries with Wagner and Fairleigh Dickinson with two games against each foe. Quinnipiac has been a dominant team against both Fairleigh Dickinson (11-2) and Wagner (10-6) as they come in with a combined 21-8 record all-time against the two opponents. Quinnipiac is also coming off a 5-2 victory over Wagner last weekend at the Michele Smith Spring Break Tournament for one of their two wins this season. The Bobcats will round out the week with their first ever matchup against Towson.

Scouting the Knights
Fairleigh Dickinson comes into the weekend with a 7-10 overall record but after starting the season 5-4, the Knights have stumbled of late going 2-6 in their last eight games. The Knights have been plenty busy as they've traveled down to Virginia for two separate tournaments to start the season and just recently flew back from a 12-game stint out in California during the school's annual Spring Break. They now return home for their 2014 home opener in what will be a Thursday doubleheader against Quinnipiac. Angelique Nieves is the team's leader at the dish with a .362 average, seven runs, five doubles, one triple and 10 RBI. Madison Lerma is right behind Nieves for the team-lead in batting average as she comes in with a mark of .349 with seven runs, four doubles and eight RBI. FDU is a team that doesn't hit for much power as their team slugging percentage is just .271 with only two home runs through 17 games this season. They make up for the lack of power at the plate with solid pitching as Cheryl Lopez (1-1, 2.79 ERA), Megan Reiner (5-2, 2.88 ERA) and Loren Stavrou (0-2, 3.82 ERA) each come in with more than respectable numbers on the mound.

Scouting the Tigers
Towson has put together a successful start to their season as they come in with a 12-8 record including an undefeated 3-0 mark at home in 2014. The Tigers have put together some impressive victories this season with wins over Purdue, Virginia, Lafayette, Longwood and Radford. They also come into the weekend with 4-1 mark in their last five games, their best five-game stretch at any point in the 2014 season. Maureen Hepner leads an impressive array of hitters with a .438 average (28-for-64) with 19 runs, 26 RBI, .844 slugging percentage and 14 extra base hits (7 doubles, 2 triples, 5 home runs). Jessica South (.429) and Olivia Yarbrough (.405) both bat over .400 while Missy McCormick is the power threat on this Tigers' squad as she comes in with a team-high six home runs and staggering 30 RBI. Ambar Hickman leads the Tigers on the mound with a 5-3 record, 3.00 ERA and two shutouts in seven starts this season. McCormick is also a threat on the mound with a 5-2 record, 3.53 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 45.2 innings in five starts and nine appearances.

Scouting the Seahawks
Entering the weekend with a record of 7-11, Wagner will take on the Bobcats twice this weekend in hopes of redeeming a 5-2 loss to Quinnipiac just last week. The come in flying high after a successful stint at the Michele Smith Spring Break Tournament where they went 3-3 overall including big wins over Penn State, St. Joseph's and FAMU in addition to a tightly contested loss to national power USF. The Seahawks are led by Kelsey Parker at the plate with a .463 (25-for-54) batting average to go along with three home runs and a team-high 17 RBI. Brianna Tredway and Abigail Beasley come in with respectable .346 and .333 batting averages, respectively, while Taylor Beeson has tallied a team-high 11 runs and four steals. On the mound the Bobcats will almost certainly see either McKaleigh Goodale (4-4, 3.40 ERA, 50.1 innings, 36 strikeouts) or Samantha Bedker (3-5, 6.86 ERA, 42 innings, 25 strikeouts).

Welcome to the 100 Hit Club
Quinnipiac's junior second baseman Nikki Barba became the 31st player in Quinnipiac softball history to record her 100th career base hit last weekend. She tallied a single against Green Bay to join the long lineage of success for the Bobcats in recruiting dynamic offensive talent. Barba also became the second player for the Bobcats this season to join the 100 hit club as Jordan Paolucci did so back in February.

Leading Off
Ever since her move up into the leadoff position in the Bobcats' order, sophomore Abby Johnson has been a revelation with the team's second-best average at .333 (7-for-21) with a team-leading on-base percentage (.533) as she has also picked up three runs, seven walks, two hit-by-pitch and one RBI in nine games since the move up the order.

Full Steam Ahead
Nikki Barba is currently riding a five-game hitting streak coming into Thursday, the longest such streak for any Bobcat hitter this season. Barba has been nothing short of unstoppable as she has tallied a hit in eight of the last nine games for Quinnipiac, over which she has batted a team-high .435 with two RBI, three walks, three sacrifice hits and one run scored.

Back to Form
After recording just three hits through the first eight games of the season, the Bobcats' leading hitter from the 2013 season in sophomore Courtney Solt is beginning to round into form. In the Bobcats' last nine games, Solt has batted .318 with a team-best five runs scored to go along with two RBI, one double, two walks and two sacrifice hits. She also two multi-hit games in the last three games after not recording any in in the first 14 contests in 2014.

MAAC Pitcher of the Week
The Bobcats' lone senior Katie Alfiere made some history this week as she became the first Bobcat to win a MAAC Pitcher of the Week award. The weekly award win is the second in Alfiere's career and the first for the program since May 7, 2012. She won the award after pitching in four games last weekend for Quinnipiac with 8.2 innings pitched allowing seven hits, two earned runs, one walk and three strikeouts. Alfiere finished with a 1.82 ERA and also picked up a clutch two-out save on Sunday as she entered with the bases loaded and didn't allow a run to score against St. John's (NY).

Karwoski's First
Newly hired head coach Jill Karwoski earned her first career win at Quinnipiac with a 5-3 victory over St. John's (NY) on Sunday, March 9. Her team certainly earned the victory as they found themselves down 3-1 after just two innings but rallied for a come-from-behind 5-3 win. Karwoski also made a pressure-packed decision to bring in senior pitcher Katie Alfiere with one out and the bases loaded in the seventh and her senior came through with two consecutive outs that left three Red Storm runners on-base to seal the victory.

Home Run Queen
Undoubtedly the greatest power hitter the Quinnipiac softball program has ever seen, junior catcher Jordan Paolucci became the all-time leader in career home runs for the Bobcats over the weekend. She jacked out a solo home run in the second inning against Maine to pick up her 31st career home run, passing Sarah Collins '06 for first place on the all-time list. Paolucci is currently on pace to slug more than 50 career home runs as she still has over 80 percent of the games this season including another full year in 2015 to add to her already impressive record. 

We Want More Robey
After tallying just six at-bats throughout the entire 2013 season, sophomore pitcher/first baseman Sydney Robey has come out of nowhere to lead the Quinnipiac offense through 17 games. Robey has compiled a .318 average (14-for-44) but all but six of her base hits have gone for extra bases (five doubles, three home runs). She also sports the second-best on-base percentage of .423 as she's chipped in six walks in 2014. She tallied her first career homer against Georgia State while she tied a single-game program record with three doubles against Campbell. Just last weekend she slugged her second home run of the season against Maine and also tallied her first career three-hit game, going 3-for-4 with two runs against St. John's.

Born to Run
Freshman walk-on Kathryn Vitale made quite the impact in the Bobcats' first victory of the season as she came on as a pinch runner in the fifth inning and used her speed to create immediate problems for St. John's. With Sydney Robey on third and Vitale at first, the freshman successfully stole second and forced a wild throw down from the catcher, allowing Robey to easily score from third. It was Vitale's first career stolen base and helped lead to Robey's run which represented the game-winning run for the Bobcats.

Right in the Nik of Time
Junior infielder Nikki Barba has put together a solid all-around offensive season, ranking among the three best Bobcats in terms of batting average (.349), on-base percentage (.420), hits (15) and walks (6).

All Over the Field
Perhaps the Bobcats' most versatile player thus far has been their junior utility player Hannah Linsley who comes in with a respectable batting average (.205, 9-for-44) to go along with the best ERA (5.15) of any Quinnipiac pitcher. She has pitched in 12 of the 17 games this season and thrown more than one third of Quinnipiac's total innings (34.0).

Power Player
Quinnipiac's junior catcher Jordan Paolucci shook off a 0-for-10 start to the season with a monster grand slam to right center field against Fla. Atlantic. The home run was her first of the season while the grand slam was the fourth of her career, easily the most of any Bobcat in program history. 

Milestone Watch
One Bobcat is approaching a career milestone as Jordan Paolucci is just five RBI away from reaching 100 for her career. She is well on her way to becoming the Bobcats' all-time leader as she trails Sarah Collins '06 for first place by 29 RBI.

Preseason Selection
The Bobcats were picked to finish seventh in the MAAC preseason poll which was announced earlier this week as Quinnipiac garnered 58 points among the vote of the league's head coaches. Defending MAAC Tournament Champion Marist was voted as the preseason favorite in the league followed by the reigning MAAC Regular Season Champion Fairfield and 2013 NEC Tournament participant Monmouth.

Early Honors
A host of Bobcats including juniors Jordan Paolucci and Nikki Barba as well as sophomore Courtney Solt were all named to the College Sports Madness Preseason All-MAAC Team announced earlier this month. Paolucci and Solt each earned a First Team distinction while Barba was named to the Second Team. Paolucci had a banner year, establishing a new single-season program record with 44 RBI while also leading the NEC in home runs (12) and finishing third on the team with a .322 batting average. Solt broke the single-season hits record at Quinnipiac with 66 base knocks in 2013 to go along with a team-leading .375 batting average, 37 runs, nine doubles and NEC-high five triples. Barba's numbers improved dramatically from her freshman season as she raked .331 throughout 2013 with a team-high .421 on-base percentage, 31 runs, 13 doubles, four home runs and 23 RBI.

Last Season Recap
The Bobcats finished the 2014 season with a record of 17-35 and finished their final season as a member of the Northeast Conference in seventh place overall with a mark of 9-11 in NEC play. Quinnipiac failed to reach the postseason for the first time since the 2009 season, breaking up a string of three straight trips to the playoffs for the Bobcats.

In Steps Jill
Quinnipiac University Director of Athletics and Recreation Jack McDonald announced the hiring of Jill Karwoski as the head coach on Feb. 27, 2014. Karwoski comes to Quinnipiac from Providence College where she served as the assistant coach in 2012-13. Prior to joining Quinnipiac, Karwoski was the head coach at Merrimack College for the 2011-12 season. Before Merrimack, Karwoski spent four years as the associate head coach and recruiting coordinator at Boston College, a position she held from 2007 through 2011. She also has head coaching experience at Morehead State University where she manned the helm from 2004 through 2007.

You Will be Missed
The Bobcats graduated a core of four seniors last season that were all significant contributors not only in 2013 but throughout their four years at Quinnipiac. The Bobcats said goodbye to one of their best shortstops in program history, Alex Alba. She graduated with the most career doubles (45) of any player ever at Quinnipiac as well as the eighth-most homers (13) and fifth-most RBI (92). She also finished just five hits shy of becoming just the second player in Quinnipiac history to reach the 200 career hit club as she finished her four years with 195 base knocks. Also among the graduates was outfielder Lauren Salgado, the Bobcats' center fielder the last three seasons, who finished third all-time with 47 career stolen bases and 10th all-time in career hits (141). Two other major departures include third baseman Bridget Figmic (.243 batting average, 21 runs, 19 RBI, 19 walks, .962 fielding percentage) and first baseman Kourtney Kesses (.220 batting average, 23 runs, three home runs, 12 RBI, team-high 20 walks, .959 fielding percentage). Quinnipiac will need to fill three big departures across their infield and one in the outfield if they hope to compete in the 2014 season.

Back With Vengeance
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 in 2012 and returned fully healthy in 2013 as the starting catcher wherein she finished with another stellar season as the team's main backstop. As a redshirt sophomore in 2013, Paolucci led the team with a stellar all-around campaign including a single-season program record 44 RBI, NEC-high 12 home runs, .322 batting average, 22 runs, five doubles, .611 slugging percentage, .401 on-base percentage and three stolen bases. She led the team in every slugging category in addition to her holding the top spot in the NEC in home runs (12) and RBI (44). Paolucci's successful comeback season garnered recognition on the 2013 NFCA Division I All-Region Second Team honors in the Northeast region. She also pulled in NEC First Team and College Sports Madness All-NEC First Team honors for her impressive season.

Home Run Frenzy
Paolucci's incredible 2013 campaign featured a couple more statistical highlights as she recorded a hit in over 90 percent of the team's games which also included a home run in nearly 23 percent of the games as well. She also became the first Bobcat in program history to record multiple seasons with at least 10 home runs including three grand slams in 2013 with her signature moment coming on April 20 when she crushed a walk off grand slam in the eighth inning to win it for the Bobcats.

Solt of a Good Player
The first season for outfielder Courtney Solt won't soon be forgotten as she broke a 17-year-old program record, finishing with 66 hits to break the single-season program mark established by Kerri McMahon back in the 1995 season. Solt finished her first season with the Bobcats with a .375 batting average, tied for the third-most triples in a single-season in Quinnipiac's history (five) and also finished with the eighth-most runs scored (37) in a single-season at Quinnipiac. Her defining season granted her College Sports Madness All-NEC Second Team accolades for her efforts.

Tied at the Top
Solt also became just the second Bobcat ever to win three NEC Rookie of the Week titles in 2013 as she joined Krista Seeman who accomplished the feat back in 2007. Her success from 2013 has carried over into the 2014 preseason accolades as she was the only Bobcat to garner a MAAC preseason All-Conference selection.

Nikki Breaks Out
Another Bobcat who broke out in 2013 was their then-sophomore second baseman Nikki Barba who took home her first career All-NEC distinction with Second Team honors following strong season. She went from sixth on the team in batting average in 2012 all the way up to second with a .331 mark at year's end. Her average was good enough for a Top-10 spot in the NEC in 2013. Barba improved across the board in terms of hits (49), runs (31), RBI (23), home runs (4), doubles (13), walks (20), stolen bases (7), on-base percentage (.421) and slugging percentage (.500). She ranked in the top-three on the team in all respective categories and did so while starting all 52 games at the second base position for the Bobcats.

Hot Streak
Barba strung together an 11-game hitting streak early in the 2013 season which finished as the longest streak for any Bobcat hitter throughout last season. She hit a combined .444 (16-for-36) throughout the hitting streak with four doubles, nine runs and five RBI.

On the Mound
The Bobcats were hard pressed to replace their best pitcher in program history last season but they are lucky enough to have all four of the five pitchers who saw action on the mound return for another season at Quinnipiac. Junior Hannah Lindsley had a breakout season as she finished 2013 with the best stats in every pitching category for the entire Quinnipiac pitching contingent. She tallied 7 wins with a 4.10 ERA, 9 complete games, 121.1 innings, 64 strikeouts and two saves. Linsley will be counted on to step in as the team's ace after she put together a solid 7-12 record after pitching in just one game during her freshman season. Other pitchers who will be counted on include senior Katie Alfiere (1-8, 6.19 ERA) who will be looking to bounce back from a difficult 2013 campaign while sophomore Sydney Robey (6-8, 5.27 ERA) showcased some dynamic ability from the mound in spurts last season and will be looking to round herself into a consistent contributor for the Bobcats in 2014.

A Slew of Newcomers
The 2014 Bobcats will include a significant amount of newcomers as freshmen Keilani Finley will join fellow classmates Taylor Schussler and Kathryn Vitale in their first seasons with the team. Finley hails from Alameda, Calif. and will look to help fill the hole vacated by Lauren Salgado in the Bobcats' outfield while Schussler, who also played for Quinnipiac women's rugby team, will provide some much needed depth at the infield position, as well as Vitale who figures to see time in the outfield. Also joining Quinnipiac for their first season with the team is sophomore walk-on outfielder Katie Strong who hails from South Windsor, Conn.

Big MAAC Moves
Quinnipiac softball will be competing in their first season as a member of the MAAC in 2014 after being a member of the Northeast Conference for 12 seasons. The Bobcats will be facing a brand new slate of competition as they played three different MAAC foes last season a total of six times. Quinnipiac finished with a 3-3 record in those six games against their new conference foes as they split two games each coming against Monmouth, Fairfield and Manhattan. Included in their six-game stretch was an impressive 6-4 victory over MAAC Regular Season Champs Fairfield on the road as well as a convincing 8-1 victory over NEC Tournament participant Monmouth.

Contact: Maxx McNall; maxx.mcnall@quinnipiac.edu