Schwartzburg leads way for softball

Lenny Neslin

The Quinnipiac softball team went into the weekend tied for fifth in the NEC, looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

The Bobcats played their first doubleheader of the weekend on Saturday against Mount St. Mary’s – the team they were tied for fifth with.

Hectic fourth inning costly for Bobcats

The Bobcats’ best scoring chance in the first game came in the first inning. With the bases loaded, junior Emily Bellush hit a grounder to the second baseman, and she threw out Christine Bourdeau at the plate. Freshman Mena Duffy followed by striking out swinging to end the threat.

Bellush, who allowed just one hit in her start against Long Island, earned the starting nod against the Mountaineers for game one. She faced the minimum number of batters through the first three innings, but surrendered back-to-back groundball singles to start the fourth inning.

Quinnipiac head coach Germaine Fairchild was not going to take any chances with Bellush, so she called on freshman Heather Schwartzburg from the bullpen.

“We’ve been working on some adjustments to her pitches in practice that she’s really responded well too,” Fairchild said. “Hindsight’s 20-20, maybe I should have left her in there.”

Schwartzburg had trouble finding the strike zone at first. She hit the first batter she saw, and then walked sophomore Beth Everist with the bases loaded. Sophomore Nicole Reeder broke the game open with her second hit of the game to drive in two more runs.

An angered Schwartzburg proceeded to strike out the next three Mountaineer hitters to escape anymore potential damage.

“You love to see a kid not fold there,” Fairchild said. “It’s a great learning experience for her too, and she’s very young – so she’s got a long way to go.”

Schwartzburg only allowed one more hit the rest of the game and struck out four more Mountaineers. However, Mount St. Mary’s called on their senior pitcher Jamie Fowler to start the first game, and she went the distance.

Quinnipiac’s bats were shut down all game by Fowler. She allowed four hits in the seven-inning shutout. She struck out senior Kelly Wall to end the game with a final score of 3-0.

Schwartzburg tosses near-perfect game

Fairchild sent out Schwartzburg to the hill in game two in desperate need of a win. Schwartzburg continued where she left off in the first inning by striking out the first three Mountaineer hitters.

The Bobcats were up against freshman pitcher Amanda Sadowl. They cracked their first hit off Sadowl in the second inning with a single from Duffy, but sophomore Joelle Jacobsen lined out to shortstop to end the frame.

Schwartzburg was working on a perfect game through four innings, but the Bobcats’ bats still had not put up runs on the scoreboard.

In the bottom of the fourth, Wall was hit by a pitch and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from junior catcher Katie Allendorfer. Then Bellush came up to plate and broke the scoring slump. Ahead in the count, she smashed a towering home run over the left field wall to give the Bobcats a 2-0 lead.

“I knew I had a hitter’s count. I was just looking to hit the ball hard,” Bellush said. “I don’t think we ever plan to hit home runs, I know I don’t, but it’s nice when it happens. You just plan to hit the ball hard, and if you keep hitting the ball hard, good things will happen.”

Fairchild talked with the team in between games and let them know to make adjustments, even where the players set up in the batter’s box.

“I’m traditionally a back-of-the-box hitter,” Bellush said. “I went up to the front of the box in my second at bat, and did a lot better.”

The adjustment proved to be the difference in the game, because Schwartzburg cruised along with her first lead of the day. She finally allowed a hit to the Mountaineers with two out in the fifth on a hard liner up the middle, but she forced the next batter to pop out to shortstop.

The Bobcats provided more insurance in the fifth inning when Allendorfer drove in freshman Jessica Amenda on a grounder to the shortstop. They added their fourth and final run in the sixth inning when Bourdeau singled to left field scoring Jacobsen.

Schwartzburg closed out the final two innings, retiring all six hitters in a row. She did not allow anyone on base in the game except for the one single in the fifth inning.

“I was focusing more on the pitches that weren’t working during the first game,” Schwartzburg said. “We had to change our game plan in the second game. I threw more screws and curves to keep them off balance, and it worked.”

The Bobcats improved to 15-27 overall and 7-7 in the NEC with the win, while the Mountaineers fell to 13-29 overall and 8-8 in the conference.

The Bobcats headed into Sunday’s doubleheader against Monmouth in need of a sweep.