Teetering on the edge: Quinnipiac softball looks to sneak into MAAC Tournament in crunchtime

Michael LaRocca, Opinion Editor

Life can be odd when you’re living on the bubble of greatness. It’s as if you’re standing outside your favorite store with all of your favorite things in the window. You just have to muscle up, go in and get them. That’s how Quinnipiac softball is living at this point in the season.

Nearing the final stretch, the Bobcats are sitting quite uncomfortably at ninth place in the MAAC, a conference that only allows the top six teams to play for a championship. With a 4-8 conference record, Quinnipiac is currently 2.5 games behind sixth-place Marist, a team that is squeaking its way into contention with a 6-5 conference record.

This is the make-or-break point in the season that truly good teams live for. With eight in-conference games left to play for Quinnipiac, there is no better time for it to prove that it belongs, and the Bobcats have just the right type of talent to do so.

One can say that Quinnipiac has started to peak at the right time, having won five of its last nine games on the back of its young pitching rotation and timely hitting from its veterans.

The Bobcats are coming off a weekend-split against the visiting Siena Saints, a team who came to Hamden in a complete nose dive, having lost seven straight prior.

Quinnipiac took game one of the doubleheader 7-5, headlined by five innings of one-run ball from freshman pitcher Sydney Horan and an excellent game from senior infielder Bridget Nasir, who went a perfect 4-for-4 with two RBIs, a double and a triple.

The second game of the doubleheader was a different story.

Quinnipiac fell 8-5 at the hands of Siena, which broke its eight-game losing streak in the process. The Bobcats’ pitching was turned on its head after sophomore pitcher Tori McGraw was charged with six runs in only 1.2 innings in the circle, putting her squad in a 8-0 hole in the second inning.

However, while still taking the loss, Quinnipiac battled back to make it a three-run game in the sixth, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate, but ultimately stranding the runners. This type of resilience in a two-game set against one of the more talented teams in the MAAC should be the primary building block for the Bobcats throughout the rest of the season.

Through trial and error, Quinnipiac has found a formula for success that can be followed for the rest of the season. The bottom line for the Bobcats to make a run at the MAAC tournament lies with the arms of freshman pitchers Horan, Jaclyn Gonzalez and Taylor Walton.

Whenever these three have entered the circle, Quinnipiac has seen its greatest success. Horan and Gonzalez were credited with nine of the team’s 10 wins of the season, carrying team-low ERAs of 4.64 and 3.55 respectively. With the pair’s sheer talent alongside Walton’s solid relief pitching, the Bobcats will have the best chance at reaching the playoffs if these three can create productive and sustainable performances down the stretch.

Another component of the formula will be creating opportunities for the team’s veterans to flourish offensively. Despite the fairly low batting average many Quinnipiac batters possess, the doubleheader allowed for several upperclassmen to flaunt their clutch gene.

Graduate student utility player Kayla Jensen made great strides in game one, going 2-for-3 and stealing two bases. Jensen did this despite batting .177 and having only two stolen bases on the season going into the series. Nasir had the aforementioned perfect game at the dish in game one and junior first baseman Lala Pascual got on base three times across the two games, driving in a run in the process. These performances were the fuel to Quinnipiac’s offensive fire.

The Bobcats have shown that there is a rough formula for success on this team. The only concern for them down the stretch, however, is how they can perform on the road. Quinnipiac only has three more games in Hamden before playing its final six games on the road, a frightening development considering that the team has gone 4-15 away from the gaze of the Sleeping Giant.

Regardless, the Bobcats have shown throughout conference play that they can make honest attempts at being contenders within the MAAC. The only thing stopping them from sneaking into the conference tournament and making a run for a championship is themselves. That is the odd life of living on the bubble.