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NU softball hosts Marist, Quinnipiac this weekend


Niagara heads into a pivotal weekend in MAAC play, starting with a doubleheader at 2 p.m. on Friday, April 28 against the Marist Red Foxes. The Purple Eagles then take on the Quinnipiac Bobcats at 12 p.m. on Saturday, April 29. Niagara (15-21, 6-6 MAAC) are in the thick of the hunt for one of the six spots in the 2017 MAAC Softball Championships with just eight games to go in conference play.

Niagara dropped both games in a non-conference doubleheader against Akron on April 26th, 3-1 in the first game and 4-2 in the second, at Niagara Softball Field. Bridget Hogan tied a school record by hitting her 15th double of the season. Jennifer Szilagyi tossed a complete-game in the first game of the doubleheader. She allowed only 1 earned run on six hits with no walks in a tremendous effort. Maria Gabriele (3-for-5), Jerri Ann Orfano (3-for-7), and Hogan (3-for-7) led the team at the plate in the doubleheader. Kendall Watkins, who was named MAAC Rookie of the Week on Tuesday, had a home run in the second game and tallied 3 walks on the day. Niagara is on a 6-2 run in MAAC play after an 0-4 start. Niagara (15-21, 6-6 MAAC) is now tied for the sixth and final playoff spot with Fairfield (18-24, 7-7 MAAC) and Marist (26-17, 6-6 MAAC) as all three teams are .500 in conference games.

Niagara started the season 7-4 before losing 11 straight games. Now, the Purple Eagles boast an 8-6 record in their last 14 games, including a 6-2 record in conference play in that run. Bridget Hogan (48-for-121) is the second-leading hitter in the MAAC with a batting average of .397. In addition to that career-high average, she is also setting her best marks as a Purple Eagle in on-base percentage (.435) and slugging percentage (.537). Hogan will look for her program record-setting 16th double of the season in this weekend's play. Freshman infielder Kendall Watkins leads Niagara with six home runs and 22 runs scored while she is second on the team with 19 RBI. She had three home runs last week, including another this week, to extend her excellent play. Orfano and Watkins are second only to Hogan on Niagara with .323 batting averages, and Sarah Trifoso (.318) and Chanelle Ward (.306) also are batting over .300. Jennifer Szilagyi lowered to ERA to a team leading 3.04. She is 5-10 this season in 24 appearances (16 starts) and she has pitched four complete games and two shutouts. Sierra Bertrand leads the Purple Eagles with a 9-6 record in the circle in 18 appearances (16 starts) and a team-best 98 strikeouts and a .236 opposing batting average to go with a 3.39 ERA.

Marist comes in after winning 3 out of 4 games over the weekend, picking up two wins against Saint Peter's and splitting a doubleheader with Manhattan. Last season, Niagara dropped two games in a doubleheader to Marist, 6-3 and 1-0. Senior Janna Korak is leading Marist in batting average (.371), slugging percentage (.714) on-base percentage (.448), runs (31), hits (52), RBI (41), doubles (15), home runs (11), total bases (100), and walks (21). Korak (.371), Kourtney Paul (.327), Miranda Perez (.320), Casey Page (.313), Rebecca Freeman (.308), and Gabriel Kelliher (.307) are all hitting over .300 on the year. Four Marist pitchers have an ERA under 3.00 on the season. Jayne Oberdorf leads the Red Foxes with a 2.03 ERA in 19 games (11 starts), recording a 4-3 record with 50 strikeouts. Jessica Van Alphen leads Marist with nine wins in 20 games (11 starts), adding a 2.09 ERA and 60 strikeouts. Kallen Leeseberg has a Marist team-high 62 strikeouts in just 56.1 innings.

Quinnipiac comes to Niagara after going 2-2 last weekend, splitting the series with both Iona and Siena. Last season, Niagara dropped two games in a doubleheader to Quinnipiac, 5-0, 3-0. Sophomore Rebecca Drake is leading the team with a .397 batting average along with 54 hits, 12 doubles, 25 RBI, 80 total bases, a .588 slugging percentage and a .401 on-base percentage. Abbey Long is leading the team with a 2.80 ERA with an 11-9 record and 10 complete games with 3 shutouts. Pitcher Casey Herzog has a 3.48 ERA with team leading 12 complete games with 4 shutouts.