Quinnipiac Softball Hosts UConn on Thursday for 2014 Home Opener, Face Manhattan and Monmouth for MAAC Opener this Weekend

Quinnipiac University Bobcats (3-18, 0-0 MAAC)
University of Connecticut Huskies (7-10, 0-3 American Athletic)
Manhattan College Jaspers (4-10, 0-0 MAAC)
Monmouth University Hawks (7-10, 0-0 MAAC)

Thursday, March 27, 2014 (QU Softball Field – Hamden, Conn.)
UConn @ Quinnipiac – 3:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 29, 2014 (Gaelic Park – Riverdale, N.Y.)

Quinnipiac @ Manhattan - 1:00 p.m.
Quinnipiac @ Manhattan – 3:00 p.m.
Sunday, March 30, 2014 (QU Softball Field – Hamden, Conn.)
Monmouth @ Quinnipiac – 1:00 p.m.
Monmouth @ Quinnipiac – 3:00 p.m.

After playing 21 games away from Hamden, the Quinnipiac University softball team will return home to the QU Softball Field for their 2014 home opener. Coming off their most impressive victory of the season on Sunday, in a 2-1 upset victory over Towson, the Bobcats will now take on an annual regional foe in UConn on Thursday afternoon from Hamden. The Huskies own a 16-5 all-time record against Quinnipiac but the Bobcats have won four of the last six meetings. After their non-conference matchup on Thursday, Quinnipiac will begin MAAC competition with weekend doubleheaders on the road against Manhattan on Saturday and at home against Monmouth on Sunday. The Bobcats split in two games against each the Jaspers and Hawks in 2013 as they look to get off on the right foot in their first season in the new conference.

All-Time Against the Competition
All three opponents this weekend are common opponents for Quinnipiac through the years as they've matched up against each opponent at least 12 times in their respective series histories. The Bobcats are 5-16 against UConn but come in winners in four of the last six meetings including a 4-3 win from Storrs in their last game on March 27, 2013. Quinnipiac has put together a relative impressive streak against Manhattan as they enter the weekend with an 8-4 all-time mark. The Bobcats have dominated the series against the Jaspers at home with a 5-1 record from the QU Softball Field but their road record sits at .500 (2-2). Always an annual rivalry as former members of the Northeast Conference, Quinnipiac is 8-8 all-time against Monmouth. They've met twice before in the NEC Tournament while their home (4-4), road (3-3) and neutral site (1-1) records are all sitting at .500.

Scouting the Huskies
Entering her 31st season manning the helm of the UConn softball program, Karen Mullins truly is a legend within the sport on a national level. She is only the 43rd coach in NCAA history to reach the 800 career win milestone. Known as one of the most successful coaches in the region, Mullins has led Connecticut to eight NCAA Tournament appearances, one Women's College World Series trip and dominance in the Northeast region and formerly in the BIG EAST Conference. The 2014 squad comes into Thursday with a 5-20 record and 0-3 start in the American Athletic Conference. Despite the less-than-stellar record, the Huskies have challenged themselves with games against top-level talent as they've met Texas A&M, Wisconsin, Miami (Ohio), Baylor, Florida Gulf Coast and South Florida (three times) already this season. They come into Thursday riding a nine-game losing streak but they're still armed with talent as Valerie Sadowl leads the team in hitting with a .344 average, six runs, five doubles, two home runs and eight RBI. Audrey Grinnell is the Huskies' power threat with four doubles and the team-lead with four home runs and 15 RBI. Lauren Duggan has been the Huskies' ace all season as she comes in with 14 of the team's 20 decisions (4-10 record overall). Duggan has started 12 games (appeared in 18) and owns a 4.06 ERA, five complete games and 33 strikeouts in 77.2 innings.

Scouting the Jaspers
The Bobcats' first conference games will come against a Manhattan squad that finished last season 21-25 overall, just missing the MAAC postseason with a 9-7 mark in conference play. Picked to finish 9th in the MAAC Preseason Coaches' Poll, the Jaspers come into the weekend with a 4-10 overall record. The Jaspers were supposed to have played 25 games up to this point in the season but due to 11 cancelations their season started a full two weeks behind schedule. Elena Bowman is the star of this Manhattan squad as she leads the team in nearly every offensive category with a .352 average (19-for-54), 16 runs, five doubles, one triple, six home runs, 20 RBI, .815 slugging, 13 walks and a .507 on-base percentage. Shutting down Bowman will certainly be a key for the Bobcats' pitching while their offense will have to deal with a combination of Kate Bowen (3-3, 4.12 ERA, 37.1 innings, 20 strikeouts), Danielle Gabriel (1-3, 4.45 ERA, 33.0 innings, 25 strikeouts) and Amy Bright (0-8 record, 6.14 ERA, 35.1 innings, 31 strikeouts).

Scouting the Hawks
One of the MAAC's preseason favorites, the Monmouth Hawks were selected to finish 3rd in the Preseason Coaches' Poll and have come out of the gates with a solid 7-10 mark through non-conference play. They feature a well-balanced lineup that includes one of the conference's most dynamic players in infielder Vanessa Cardoza. The lone Hawk to have been named to the Preseason All-Conference Team, Cardoza has posted a .345 average (20-for-58) with a team-high 10 runs, two doubles, one home run and four RBI. One of the team's revelations this season has been Shannon Fitzgerald who comes in with a.351 average (20-for-57) in addition to a .413 on-base percentage, both of which lead the team in their respective categories. The Hawks' pitching staff is made up of just two players with Sydney Underhill (5-6, 3.38 ERA, six complete games, one shutout, 76.2 innings, 42 strikeouts) and Breanna Sniffen (2-4, 7.14 ERA, 33.1 innings, nine strikeouts) combining for all 110.0 innings thrown by Monmouth pitchers this season.

Courtney Solt…The Girl on Fire
The Bobcats' sophomore left fielder has been on an absolute tear over the last five games as she is batting .667 (10-for-15) with six runs scored, two doubles, one walk, one RBI, three hit-by-pitches  and three stolen bases. She has picked up multi-hit games in three straight contests and five of the last seven, after failing to pick up a multi-hit game in the Bobcats' first 14 games of the day. Solt has increased her batting average from .156 seven games ago, all the way up to .316 (third-highest on the team).

Armed and Ready
Quinnipiac needed a strong pitching outing to have any chance of landing the upset victory over Towson and thankfully they received the best pitching performance of the season from sophomore Sydney Robey who went the distance in a complete game five-hitter. Robey made just one mistake all day, allowing a solo home run in the second inning before shutting out a potent Tiger lineup for the remaining 5.1 innings. She finished with just one run allowed on five hits with one walk and three strikeouts to pick up her first victory of the season.

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 .371 (13-for-35) with a team-leading on-base percentage (.511) as she has also picked up eight runs, eight walks, two hit-by-pitches and two RBI in 13 games since the move up the order. Johnson has also played stellar defense out in right field as she leads all the Bobcats' outfielders with eight assists on the season.

Full Steam Ahead
Nikki Barba had her six-game hitting streak snapped on Saturday, the longest such streak for any Bobcat hitter this season, but Barba has been nothing short of unstoppable as she has tallied a hit in 11 of the last 13 games for Quinnipiac. During this stretch, Barba is batting .382 with one home run, seven RBI, six walks, three sacrifice hits and four runs scored.

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 21 games. Robey has compiled a .298 average (17-for-57) with all but seven of her base hits going for extra bases (six doubles, four home runs). She also sports the third-best on-base percentage (.394) as she's chipped in seven 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.

Grand Entrance
The Bobcats' have benefitted from a serious upgrade in play from Robey all season, as evidenced by her team-leading totals in doubles (6), home runs (4), RBI (16) and slugging percentage (..614). Just last weekend against Wagner, Robey went deep with the bases loaded in the fifth inning to land what was her first career grand slam home run.

Problem Solved
After having to endure several rough days in the field with multiple errors in the first few weeks of the season, the Bobcat team defense has improved significantly in the last 14 games as they've committed more than one error in a game just twice. They also have picked up back-to-back games without committing a single error in the field, while they've combined with their pitchers to execute a double play in the field in each of the last four games.

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.   

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 (.333), on-base percentage (.415), hits (18), home runs (1), RBI (7) and walks (9).

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 (.218, 12-for-55) to go along with the second-best ERA (5.71) of any Quinnipiac pitcher. She has pitched in 14 of the 21 games this season and thrown more than one third of Quinnipiac's total innings (41.2).

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
Two Bobcats are approaching career milestones as Jordan Paolucci is just three 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 27 RBI.

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.

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