Softball Drops Three Of Four To End Season

Patrick Gustavson, Sports Editor

Having been eliminated from Northeast Conference tournament contention, the Central Connecticut softball team entered its final four contests as a young team looking to go into next season with momentum against two of the conference’s top teams.

But it was only to take one of its last four games, splitting a series with Bryant while being swept in a doubleheader by LIU Brooklyn.

It was one big inning in game one that propelled Bryant to victory in game one on Wednesday afternoon. They scored four runs in the third inning off freshman Kari Marks, though two were unearned.

Besides the hiccup, Marks went the full seven innings, giving up just three earned runs while sitting down 13 Bryant hitters on strikes.

But the Blue Devil bats were silenced by Bulldog pitcher Gabrielle Ermish, who threw a complete-game shutout while striking out 10. Central managed just five hits on the contest, with two coming from sophomore Sydney Bolan and freshman Alexa Milius each.

Head coach Breanne Gleason said her team was not sticking to their offensive game plan in game one, but an impassioned speech from assistant coach Pat Holden in between games sparked the bats in game two.

“Be aggressive and hit the ball hard. Very simple,” Gleason said of the team’s ideal approach.

Freshman shortstop Carli Backlund struck first for the Blue Devils thanks to a first-inning solo shot, giving them a lead that they would not relinquish.

Junior second baseman Alicia Bertolino, hitting ninth in the order, got things rolling in the bottom of the second with a two-run homer. Backlund and Milius stroked back-to-back RBI doubles and Bolan drove in Milius with an RBI-single of her own.

But Gleason was most impressed with her young pitching staff on the day. Sophomore Ashley Antonazzo got the start and went four innings without yielding a run. But after loading the bases to start the fifth, Gleason made the move to Marks.

Though the inherited runners scored, Marks escaped with no more damage done.

“I feel like Ashley was throwing very well and she’s all drop-ball. Kari is pretty much all rise-ball. So, I thought we’d give them a different look and she looked good in the first game so it ended up making me look smart because she went out there and did well,” Gleason said of the decision.

Though the Bulldogs chipped away at the lead, the Blue Devils held them off to win the game by a score of 7-4.

While the young Blue Devils put up a good fight, they were swept in two games by conference-leading LIU Brooklyn.

Another young hurler got the start for the team in the form of freshman Carly Stoker, who yielded just two earned runs in five innings, though three unearned runs in the fifth gave the Blackbirds a 5-0 lead, the score which they would win by.

The Blue Devils could not get it going with their bats, managing just two hits against Elena Valenzuela from Milius and junior center fielder Emily Cronin.

Though the bats picked up in game two, Central was unable to come away with the upset, falling by a score of 6-4.

The Blackbirds dropped three right away on Marks in the bottom of the first.

This score held through four until the Blue Devils broke out for four runs in the top of the fifth, taking the lead thanks to RBIs from Bolan, Cronin and sophomore outfielders Kristen Ulmer and Guiliana Hathaway.

But the Blackbirds fought back, scoring three of their own in the bottom of the inning, leading to the 6-4 final score.

The Blue Devils finished the NEC slate with a 4-12 record, finishing in last place out of nine teams. Despite this, there is hope for the future as they will not lose any key contributors to graduation.

Gleason said following the Bryant games that she knows they will enter next year with players with lots of experience to aid their effort to return to the NEC playoffs.