Quinnipiac opens MAAC play with sweep of Niagara


Yamini Dalal

Quinnipiac softball is back in action on Tuesday, April 3, in a doubleheader against Canisius.

Zack Hochberg, Staff Writer

HAMDEN, Conn – The Quinnipiac softball team swept its doubleheader against Niagara Sunday afternoon, winning game one 6-2 before closing out the series with a 6-5 victory in game two. 

Sophomore pitchers Sydney Horan and Jaclyn Gonzalez both threw complete games, helping push the Bobcats to an undefeated 2-0 start in MAAC play. 

“They really feed off each other,” Quinnipiac head coach Hillary Smith said. “They’re always pushing each other to get better … it’s huge that they’re stepping up for us because they’re the ones who set the tone for us.”

Horan got the nod in game one. Albeit her strong pitching performance, it was the Purple Eagles who got on the board first. She held the visitors hitless into the third, until sophomore utility player Lindsay Mayo lined a triple into the gap, bringing home freshman infielder Hailey Cenname. 

Quinnipiac loaded the bases in the fourth, and a dropped infield fly allowed freshman cacher Mac Davis to come home from third to tie the game. On the ensuing at bat, with runners on second and third, freshman infielder Sofia Vega doubled down the line to clear the bases and give the Bobcats a 3-1 lead. After another Bobcat reached base, sophomore infielder Brooke Hilliard kept the party going, finding grass in center field to bring in two more and extend the Quinnipiac lead to four. 

Once Horan shut down the Purple Eagles in the fifth, Quinnipiac’s offense went right back to work. Senior infielder Lala Pascual tripled off the wall to open the inning, before scoring on a passed ball on the following at bat. 

Niagara was able to grab a run back in the sixth, but the Bobcats cruised to a 6-2 victory as Horan threw her ninth complete game of the season. 

Just like in the first game, Niagara jumped out to an early lead. Junior infielder Maggie Kellner ripped a single into center off Gonzalez to plate a runner from second and give the Purple Eagles the early advantage. The visitors added on to their lead later in the inning when junior outfielder Samantha Hare scored on a passed ball as Niagara took its biggest lead of the afternoon. 

Following the same script of game one, the Bobcats offense got to work. Graduate student utility player Bridget Nasir doubled down the left field line to kick start the inning. Nasir later cut the deficit in half, scoring on a base hit off the bat of senior outfielder Serena Fogg. The Bobcats offense kept firing on all cylinders when Vega singled to plate Fogg and tie the game. 

“We don’t give up,” Smith said. “If there’s one thing about us … the score could be 8-0 and we’ll fight back … and we’ll fight until the end.”

With the Bobcats continuing to put pressure on Niagara, head coach Larry Puzan made the move to remove senior pitcher Riley Crum from the game after just 1.1 innings. 

However, the pitching change didn’t stop the Bobcats’ offense. Hilliard’s single up the middle drove in sophomore outfielder Amanda Engle to put the hosts in the driver’s seat. Freshman infielder Natalie Apatiga followed with a single of her own up the middle, Fogg and Vega came in to score, but Hilliard and Apatagia were both thrown out trying to advance to end the inning with the Bobcats up 5-2. 

Graduate student catcher Hannah Davis sparked the Bobcats’ attack in the third, scoring Nasir on a double after she reached on a fielder’s choice to make it 6-2 Quinnipiac. 

Unlike the first game, Niagara fought back. Cenname sliced one just inside the foul line to score Hare, cutting the deficit to three in the fifth. 

In the fifth, after Gonzalez hit two Niagara batters to put runners on base, the Purple Eagles were able to trim the Bobcats’ lead to just one. Kellner’s ensuing double allowed both runners to touch home, however, a phenomenal diving play by Nasir and her flip to second for the force out got the Bobcats out of the inning with the lead intact.

Quinnipiac’s offense couldn’t score in the bottom of the sixth, allowing Niagara to head to the final frame needing just one run to knot the game. 

Gonzalez completely shut down Niagara in the seventh. Three batters stepped up to the plate, three batters were sent down, as the Bobcats completed the sweep.

The two victories moved Quinnipiac to 2-0 in MAAC play and 13-9 overall. The Bobcats return to action on April 3 when they host another doubleheader against Canisius.