Nikki Barba Heroics Send Softball Past UConn in Walk-Off Fashion, 11-10

HAMDEN, Conn. - It was one of the most bizarre endings to a softball game you'll ever see, but it went in favor of the Quinnipiac Bobcats. Nikki Barba (San Diego, Calif.) delivered the bases-loaded, game-winning, walk-off hit to give the Bobcats an 11-10 win over UConn on Thursday afternoon at the QU Softball Field. With the win, Quinnipiac improved to 4-21 on the season, while the visiting Huskies fell to 7-21.

Heading into the seventh inning with a 7-2 lead and riding another sensational start from Sydney Robey (Glenmoore, Pa.), the Bobcats looked to have everything under control. Quinnipiac had already tied their season-high for runs in a game, slugged four doubles and one home run, well on their way to scoring a victory over their regional foe for the fifth straight season.

With a five-run advantage and all but assured victory, UConn's bats awoke as 13 batters came to plate in the seventh inning alone, generating eight runs and in a surge that stunned the Quinnipiac fan base.

The Huskie rally all started with one out as back-to-back bases loaded walks, followed by a two-run single left the Bobcats in a precarious position leading 7-6 but with only one out and runners on third and first. After a Quinnipiac meeting on the mound broke, the Huskies' bench all jumped up as an RBI single tied the score and a sacrifice fly to center field completed the UConn rally. With the Bobcats reeling, the Huskies continued to pile on as a two-run single to left field increased their lead to 10-7 before Quinnipiac finally escaped the inning on a swinging strikeout.

Faced with a similar situation on Wednesday, falling to Fairfield 7-5 after entering the seventh inning with a 5-4 lead, the Quinnipiac bench was nowhere near defeated as head coach Jill Karwoski lit a fire under her team that paid off in dramatic fashion.

Jordan Paolucci (Lake Mary, Fla.) started the bottom of the seventh with a single up the middle while Dani Edmands (Northborough, Mass.) was granted a bit of luck as the UConn third baseman failed to field a grounder to put two runners on. Brittney Cyr (Southington, Conn.) stepped up to the plate with one out and only three hits on the year but she shook off the pressure of the moment and came through with a clutch single to right. The base hit scored Paolucci and was mishandled by the right fielder as the ball rolled all the way to the wall to score Edmands from first and land Cyr at third base.

UConn head coach Karen Mullins, a softball legend in her own right as she's entering her 31st year tending to the Huskies' head coaching position, inserted her top pitcher Lauren Duggan to try and shake off the Bobcats' rally attempt. Her first opponent was Paige Giunta (Downingtown, Pa.) who swung and missed on strike three but the catcher mishandled the ball which allowed Giunta to sprint in safely at first. After Abby Johnson (Chelmsford, Mass.) walked to load the bases, Courtney Solt (Boyertown, Pa.) worked a bases loaded walk, fighting off three straight pitches with two strikes before forcing home Cyr from third to tie the score at 10-10.

With the bases still juiced, the Bobcat fans had all the excitement they could ask for as the next at-bat featured a matchup between the best pitcher for UConn and top hitter for Quinnipiac in Barba. Duggan took control early in the at-bat as she had Barba on the ropes with a 1-2 count but her put-away pitch couldn't get by Barba as she lined an opposite field fly ball that landed in deep right center field. Giunta came in to score from third as Barba was mobbed by her teammates halfway down the third base line.

The victory is a big one for the Bobcats as they move to 6-16 all-time in 22 meetings against the Huskie. The thrilling win was also the first for the Bobcats from the QU Softball Field as they move to 1-2 at home on the season.

Robey led the Bobcats on the mound as she gutted her way through 6.1 innings of work, leaving with just two runs charged but ending with five runs (four earned) allowed to go along with four strikeouts. Hannah Lindsley (Narragansett, R.I.) picked up her team-leading third victory of the season as she entered in the seventh and picked up the final two outs of the seventh.

Eight Bobcats finished with base hits while every Quinnipiac player to appear in the game either scored a run or tallied a hit on the afternoon. The offense was led by Barba's 3-for-4 day at the plate with two runs, four RBI, one double and her second home run of the season. Solt reached base safely in four-of-five plate appearances, totaling two walks, one run, one RBI, one stolen base and one double. Paolucci and Edmands each scored two runs while Edmands and Lindsley picked up two RBI each. Katie Alfiere (Beacon Falls, Conn.) also had a strong 2-for-3 day with her second double in three games to go along with one run scored.  

Quinnipiac will carry a ton of momentum into the weekend as they will play five road MAAC games in three days starting with doubleheaders against Saint Peter's (Saturday) and Rider (Sunday) while they will finish their postponed meeting with Manhattan from Saturday, March 29 on Monday at 1:00 pm.

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