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NU softball opens home schedule on Wednesday


NIAGARA UNIV. -- The Niagara softball team opened its MAAC schedule last weekend with four road games against the Iona Gaels and Fairfield Stags. This week, the Purple Eagles open the 2017 home schedule at Niagara Softball Field, starting with a Wednesday doubleheader against the Youngstown State Penguins. First pitch is slated for 3 p.m. on Wednesday.

The Purple Eagles played four games on the road last weekend to open conference play against Iona and Fairfield, the team's first game action since March 19. Leading 4-2 in the sixth inning in the first game against Iona, the Gaels rallied with three runs in the bottom of the sixth to knock off Niagara 5-4. Iona took a 6-1 win in the second game of the day. At Fairfield on Sunday, the Purple Eagles tied a season-high with 12 hits but fell 8-3, stranding 11 runners on base in the game. Pitchers Jennifer Szilagyi and Emily Johnston held Fairfield to two runs in the second game, but the Stags held Niagara's offense in check for a 2-0 win to close the doubleheader. Chanelle Ward went 7-for-13 at the plate in the four-game set to lead Niagara with a .538 batting average. Jerri Ann Orfano and Kendall Watkins both batted 5-for-13 (.385), and Orfano led the team with four RBI, including her second home run of the season at Iona.

Niagara opens its 14-game home schedule on Wednesday against Youngstown State. Last season, the Purple Eagles went 5-9 at Niagara Softball Field, including a 5-5 record against MAAC competition.
Jerri Ann Orfano leads Niagara in batting average (.364) and slugging percentage (.527).  She also leads the Purple Eagles with two home runs and 11 RBI in 20 games. Bridget Hogan is batting .344 and leads the Purple Eagles with 22 total hits, five doubles, and one triple. Sarah March has a team-high 13 runs scored and is tied with Hogan for the team lead in extra-base hits (four doubles, one triple, one home run). In the circle, Jennifer Szilagyi leads Niagara pitchers with a 2.91 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 13 appearances (eight starts). She is 3-4 with one complete game and one shutout. Sierra Bertrand leads Niagara with 47 strikeouts and an opposing batting average of .251. Bertrand holds a 4-5 record in 10 appearances (nine starts) with an ERA of 3.93.

The Youngstown State Penguins come to Niagara Softball Field after a three-game series at Valparaiso last weekend. The Penguins went 1-2 on the weekend, with their first of two losses snapping a nine-game winning streak. Youngstown State is 2-0 against MAAC teams this season, earning 5-0 and 3-0 wins over the Siena Saints during the UNC-Wilmington Tournament on March 10 and 11. Niagara dropped a close 3-1 decision in the first game of last season's doubleheader at Youngstown State, and the Penguins led 5-0 in the fourth inning of game two before the game was called due to rain. Hannah Lucas leads the Penguins at the plate, batting .300 (27-for-90) this season along with a team-high 18 runs scored and two triples. Maria Lacatena has a team-high six home runs for Youngstown State, while Sarah Dowd leads the team with 19 RBI. Maddi Lusk leads Youngstown State in the circle with a 9-8 record and a 2.28 ERA in 19 starts. She has pitched 13 complete games and four shutouts while accruing 88 strikeouts.