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NU softball takes first-ever win over Syracuse in road split


SYRACUSE -- The Niagara softball team kicked off this week's six-game road trip in emphatic fashion, opening up a sizeable 7-1 lead over the Syracuse Orange before withstanding a late rally for a 7-6 win, the first for the Purple Eagles in 16 games against Syracuse. The Orange closed the day with a 7-0 win in game two against Niagara (12-18, 3-5 MAAC) Tuesday afternoon at Skytop Softball Stadium.

Eight Purple Eagles recorded a hit in the team's game one win, with Rachel Funk and Sarah March picking up two singles each. Maria Gabriele and Kendall Watkins each had two RBI and Chanelle Ward got her first extra-base hit of the season with an RBI triple. Sierra Bertrand won her fourth-straight start in the circle, with Jennifer Szilagyi coming in in relief and earning her second save of the season.

Game #1: Niagara 7, Syracuse 6

The Orange opened the scoring with an RBI single in the bottom of the second, but the Purple Eagles' bats helped the team open up a six-run lead over the next two innings. Sarah March led off the top of the third with a single, eventually advancing to third before Kendall Watkins walked. With two outs on the board, Jerri Ann Orfano singled up the middle to score March, and Maria Gabriele followed that up with a double deep to left center that scored both Watkins and Orfano, as Niagara held a lead of 3-1 after three full innings. In the top of the fourth, Sarah Trifoso doubled to center field and scored on a deep hit to right field from Chanelle Ward that ended up as a triple. Ward scored on the next at-bat, a single from Bridget Hogan. After a Syracuse pitching change, Watkins ripped a home run over the center field wall to make it a 7-1 Purple Eagles lead. Niagara got two outs to lead off the bottom of the fourth, but Syracuse put five straight batters on base and scored three runs to cut the lead in half. The Orange held Niagara to two hits in the final two innings and went into the bottom of the seventh down 7-5, after a leadoff double against Emily Johnston, Niagara brought in Jennifer Szilagyi to go for the save. Szilagyi and the Niagara defense got two straight outs before Syracuse scored a run on a Niagara fielding error, but with the tying run on first, Niagara picked up the final out for the 7-6 win. Sierra Bertrand went five innings in the circle and struck out two batters, allowing four runs (two earned) on five hits. Emily Johnston pitched one relief inning and allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits while striking out one batter.

Game #2: Syracuse 7, Niagara 0

After a scoreless first inning, Syracuse took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second with a leadoff single followed right up by a two-run homer to right field. Niagara put two runners on base in the top of the third with singles from Sarah Trifoso and Chanelle Ward, but could not drive a run home to get on the board. Syracuse advanced its lead to 3-0 in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI double from Hannah Dossett. Down 3-0, Niagara led off the top of the sixth inning with a single from Ward and a double down the left field line from Bridget Hogan. With no outs and runners on second and third, Syracuse was able to maintain the shutout, throwing out pinch runner Bailey Stayner out at home for the first out before Maria Gabriele flied out to center field and Jerri Ann Orfano struck out. Bridget Hogan entered the circle in the sixth inning, and Syracuse loaded the bases with two walks and a single to left field. The Orange got back-to-back RBI singles before Hogan walked two batters home with the bases loaded, extending the Syracuse lead to 7-0. In the top of the seventh, Niagara put runners on first and second as Erin Bohan singled to right field and Sarah March walked, but the Orange forced March out at second with Ward at the plate, securing the 7-0 win as Niagara and Syracuse split the day's doubleheader.

Niagara returns to MAAC play for the conclusion of this week's road stretch. The Purple Eagles head to New Jersey for doubleheaders at Monmouth on Saturday and Rider on Sunday. Both doubleheaders are slated for noon starts.