April 4, 2014

Softball Hits the Road for MAAC Showdowns Against Saint Peter's, Rider and Manhattan

Quinnipiac University Bobcats (4-21, 0-3 MAAC)
Saint Peter's College Peacocks (4-20, 0-2 MAAC)
Rider University Broncs (2-19, 0-0 MAAC)
Manhattan College Jaspers (8-15, 1-0 MAAC)

Saturday, April 5, 2014 (Joseph J. Jaroschak Field – Jersey City, N.J.)
Quinnipiac @ Saint Peter's – 1:00 p.m.
Quinnipiac @ Saint Peter's – 3:00 p.m.
Sunday, April 6, 2014 (Herb & Joan Young Field – Lawrenceville, N.J.)
Quinnipiac @ Rider – 12:00 p.m.
Quinnipiac @ Rider – 2:00 p.m.
Monday, April 7, 2014 (Gaelic Park – Riverdale, N.Y.)
Quinnipiac @ Manhattan – 1:00 p.m.

The drama was turned all the way up for Quinnipiac softball in their weekday games this week as they lost a nail biter to Fairfield before walking-off with an 11-10 victory over UConn on Thursday. Hoping the momentum translates into a successful weekend, the Bobcats (4-21, 0-3 MAAC) will now face some considerable tests this weekend as they hit the road for five MAAC games starting with a Saint Peter's doubleheader on Saturday. On Sunday Quinnipiac will play a pair at Rider and will finish up a postponed game from March 29 against Manhattan that had the Bobcats leading by a score of 1-0 and with the bases loaded in the fourth inning.

All-Time Against the Competition
The Bobcats are a combined 6-0 against Saint Peter's and Rider all-time and also own a winning record of 8-5 against Manhattan in the series history. Quinnipiac has dominated St. Peter's with a 4-0 lifetime record as the Bobcats picked up a pair of mercy-rule victories (11-3, 14-1) in their last meeting back in the 2012 season. Quinnipiac is also undefeated with a 2-0 record against Rider. The two teams last squared off during the 2010 season as the Bobcats won a pair against the Broncs from a neutral site. They've never played one another from a home or road location. Finally, the Bobcats are 8-5 all-time against Manhattan with a 6-1 loss in game one of the March 29 doubleheader standing as the most recent result.

Scouting the Peacocks
Saint Peter's (4-20, 0-2 MAAC) comes into the weekend riding a six-game losing streak, having lost their MAAC-opening doubleheader to Iona. Through the team's first 24 this season, Lee Harrison leads the team in hits (20) and batting average (.339). Freshmen Crystal Carlucci headlines the pitching staff with a 3-5 record, eight complete games and 31 strikeouts in 58.1 innings in 13 appearances (10 starts). The Peacocks return its top three hitters from 2013 in Harrison, Francesca D'Amato and Chelsea Crews. Harrison led the Peacocks in hits (49), RBIs (24) home runs (9), doubles (13), runs scored (30), batting average (.312) and slugging percentage (.567). D'Amato amassed 47 hits and 19 RBI while Crews recorded 40 hits and 15 RBI last season. 

Scouting the Broncs
Afterwas severely affected by the extended winter weather conditions as they had 13 straight games beginning the season on an uptick with a 2-4 record through six games, the Broncs (2-19, 0-0 MAAC) have ran into a buzz saw and lost 15 straight coming into the weekend. Rider  from Feb. 28 through March 9 cancelled because of snow. The sudden halt in games played has clearly affected their play as their last win came on Feb. 23. Amanda Irving leads the team in hitting (.302 average) and is the only Bronc currently batting over .300 on the season. Irving also has recorded nine doubles, eight runs scored and seven RBI to round out her solid all-around campaign. The Rider pitching staff is led by Megan Ailand who enters the weekend with a 2.88 ERA while Kaitlyn Kallert has thrown the most innings this season (41.2) for Rider.

Scouting the Jaspers
Manhattan (8-15, 1-0 MAAC) has won five of their last seven contests, including a 12-8 victory in the second game of a doubleheader at Columbia on Tuesday. Sophomore Elena Bowman leads the Manhattan offense in all three Triple Crown categories. She's hitting .357 with seven home runs and 28 RBI. Freshman Jenn Vazquez boasts a .339 batting average while senior Kate Bowen has team-highs of 26 hits and 20 runs scored to go along with a .321 average. Bowen also paces the pitching staff in wins (5) and ERA (3.50) while junior Amy Bright has struck out 36 opposing hitters to lead the team this season.

Finding a Way
Quinnipiac's 11-10 come-from-behind victory over UConn on Thursday saw the Bobcats erase a three-run deficit heading into their half of the seventh inning. For the Bobcats, the game against UConn on Thursday represented many firsts:

- First walk-off hit since Jordan Paolucci's grand slam in the 8th inning against FDU on April 20, 2013

- First comeback from at least a two-run deficit in the 7th inning or later since April 26, 2012 against Iona

- First time Bobcats came back from a deficit of more than three runs in the 7th inning since before the 2004 season

- Most combined runs (12) between both teams in the 7th inning of a game in program history

One Shining Moment
Even more history was made with Nikki Barba's walk-off single with the bases loaded as she struck a 1-2 fastball to right field that broke a 10-10 tie and score the game-winning run from third base. The hit gave Barba a 3-for-4 day (tied career high) with two runs, career-high four RBI, one double and one home run. It was also the first walk-off hit of Barba's three-year career.

Courtney Solt…The Girl on Fire
The Bobcats' sophomore left fielder has been on an absolute tear over the last nine games as she is batting .520 (13-for-25) with seven runs scored, three doubles, three walks, three RBI, four hit-by-pitches  and four stolen bases. She has picked up multi-hit games in six of the last 11 games, 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 10 games ago, all the way up to .313 (2nd-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 3rd-best average at .333 (16-for-48) with the 2nd-best on-base percentage (.459) as she has also picked up nine runs, nine walks, three hit-by-pitches and three RBI in 17 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 last 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 13 of the last 17 games for Quinnipiac. During this stretch, Barba is batting .370 with two home runs, 11 RBI, nine walks, three sacrifice hits and six 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 22 games. Robey has compiled a .286 average (20-for-70) with all but nine of her base hits going for extra bases (six doubles, five home runs). She also sports the 4th-best on-base percentage (.375) as she's chipped in eight 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 this week she smashed her team-leading fifth home run of the season and also tallied her first career three-hit game, going 3-for-4 with two runs against St. John's.

MAAC Player of the Week
Courtney Solt became the first Quinnipiac player to ever win a MAAC Player of the Week award after the sophomore outfielder had herself an incredible four-game stretch at the Towson Invitational. She batted .727 (8-for-11) with five runs, one RBI, one double, one walk, three hit-by-pitches and three stolen bases. Solt posted an incredible .800 on-base percentage and slugged .818 for the week. She recorded at least one hit in all four games while she reached base safely at least twice in all four games.

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 (5), RBI (17) and slugging percentage (.586). Three weekends ago 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 18 games as they've committed more than one error in a game just five times. They also picked up back-to-back games without committing a single error in the field against Towson and Wagner, while they recently reeled off a stretch wherein their pitching staff forced a double play in four straight 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 (.425), hits (22), home runs (2), RBI (11) and walks (12).

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
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.

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.

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.

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