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NU softball seeks season sweep of St. Bonaventure


The Niagara softball team picked up its first two conference wins of the season on Monday, walking off in the first game of a doubleheader against Saint Peter's with a 4-2 win before picking up a 6-1 victory to close the sweep.

Before returning to conference play this weekend, Niagara heads on the road for its second doubleheader of the season against St. Bonaventure. The Purple Eagles and Bonnies, who played two games in Florida back in March, wrap up the four-game season series starting at 3 p.m. on Wednesday.

Niagara moved to 2-2 at home on the season after sweeping the Saint Peter's Peacocks in a doubleheader on Monday. In the first game, both teams went scoreless through five innings, adjusting to heavy winds at Niagara Softball Field. Niagara pitcher Jennifer Szilagyi threw five strikeouts and allowed just two hits in that time. The game would go to extra innings tied at two, where Saint Peter's got runners on second and third with no outs on the board. Pitcher Emily Johnston struck out two batters and Sarah Trifoso picked up a fly out in center field to move to the bottom of the eighth still tied. Maria Gabriele led off the bottom of the eighth and reached first on a Saint Peter's error, advancing to second on a passed ball. In the next at-bat, Watkins slammed a two-run homer to left center, her second of the season, to give Niagara the walk-off 4-2 win. In the second game of the day, Niagara scored two runs in both the first and second innings, and pitcher Sierra Bertrand struck out 11 of 25 batters faced as Niagara cruised to a 6-1 win. Jerri Ann Orfano opened the second-game scoring with an RBI single before Watkins doubled the lead on a sacrifice fly. Sarah March and Bridget Hogan got RBI doubles in the second inning to make it 4-0. Bertrand was perfect through three innings and took a no-hitter bid into the top of the sixth, which was spoiled by two straight Saint Peter's hits that got the Peacocks their first and only run of the game. In the top of the seventh, Niagara's defense forced two outs before Bertrand struck out the final batter swinging to secure her fifth win of the season.

Niagara currently sits ninth in the MAAC six games into conference play. Bridget Hogan leads Niagara and ranks sixth in the MAAC with a batting average of .350 (28-for-80), while Jerri Ann Orfano is tenth in the conference at .338 (22-for-65). Hogan also leads Niagara with eight doubles and 13 RBI, while Sarah March leads the team with 16 runs scored. Jennifer Szilagyi leads Niagara pitchers with a 3.00 ERA, going 3-6 with 16 strikeouts this year, including a career-high five against Saint Peter's on Monday. Sierra Bertrand ranks third in the MAAC in total strikeouts (67). Bertrand is second in strikeouts per seven innings (7.48) after ranking second in that category last season with 6.6 per seven innings as a freshman. Bertrand is 5-5 this year and leads Niagara pitchers with an opposing batting average of .231.