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Surging NU softball plays host to Akron Zips


The Purple Eagles softball team is heating up entering the final two weeks of the regular season, with an 8-4 record in its last 12 games. The team is back at Niagara Softball Field this week for a six-game home stand, starting Wednesday afternoon with a non-conference doubleheader against the Akron Zips. Opening pitch is slated for 3 p.m.

Niagara outscored the Rider Broncs 16-0 in a doubleheader on Sunday, April 23, taking a 10-0 win in five innings to start the day before capping the twinbill with a 6-0 victory. Sierra Bertrand and Emily Johnston combined to throw a two-hit shutout in the first game of the afternoon as Niagara scored five runs in both the first and second innings to pull away for the win. Jennifer Szilagyi tossed a complete-game shutout in game two, allowing six hits to the Broncs but keeping them off the board for her second win of the weekend after helping Niagara to a 6-3 win at Monmouth on April 22. Bridget Hogan led Niagara at the plate going 4-for-7 at Rider with three doubles, one RBI, and two runs scored. Chanelle Ward was also 4-for-7 in addition to three RBI. Kendall Watkins, who was named MAAC Rookie of the Week on Tuesday, went 3-for-6 at the plate with a double and a home run. The win moved Niagara to 6-2 in MAAC play after an 0-4 start. Niagara (15-19, 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 8-4 record in their last 12 games, including a 6-2 record in conference play in that run. Bridget Hogan (45-for-114) is the second-leading hitter in the MAAC with a batting average of .395. 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 (.535). Hogan leads Niagara with 15 extra-base hits, including 14 doubles and one triple. Freshman infielder Kendall Watkins leads Niagara with five home runs, 18 RBI, and 21 runs scored. She had three home runs last week, including a two-run shot at Syracuse on April 18 that helped Niagara to its first win over the Orange in 16 matchups. Sarah Trifoso is second only to Hogan on Niagara with a career-high .329 batting average, and Chanelle Ward (.317) and Jerri Ann Orfano (.315) also are batting over .300. Jennifer Szilagyi leads Niagara with an ERA of 3.19. She is 5-9 this season in 23 appearances (15 starts) and she has pitched three complete games and two shutouts. Sierra Bertrand leads the Purple Eagles with a 9-6 record in the circle in 17 appearances (16 starts) and a team-best 96 strikeouts and a .237 opposing batting average to go with a 3.38 ERA.

Akron starts a season-ending eight-game road trip at Niagara on Wednesday. Last season, Niagara traveled to Akron for a doubleheader and was defeated in both games by scores of 2-0 and 8-0. Junior Ashley Sims is Akron's leading batter with a .386 average to go with 31 runs, 54 hits, and 37 stolen bases. Akron senior Savannah Fruin has a batting average of .323 to go with 20 extra-base hits (nine doubles, one triple, 10 home runs) along with 39 RBI. Freshman pitcher Lexie Handley leads the MAC with 188.2 innings in the circle for the Zips. Her record is 17-14 with an ERA of 2.30 to go with 161 strikeouts. Junior pitcher Kooper Vertz is 3-4 with a 3.82 ERA and 22 strikeouts.