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Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Niagara softball wraps up non-conference slate at Buffalo

All WNY News     Tuesday, May 02, 2017    

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Last weekend, the Niagara Purple Eagles softball team went 2-2 in MAAC play at Niagara Softball Field. After a pair of narrow defeats against the Marist Red Foxes, Niagara rebounded the next day with a sweep of the Quinnipiac Bobcats. Sierra Bertrand pitched the first no-hitter by a Niagara pitcher since 2013 to help the Purple Eagles to a 2-0 shutout victory to start the day, and Niagara wrapped up the sweep of Quinnipiac with an 8-6 win.

Niagara is currently one spot outside of the field of six for the MAAC Softball Championships, ranked seventh in the conference with a record of 17-23 (8-8 MAAC). Over the weekend, Niagara will play its final four conference games with doubleheaders versus Siena on May 6 and at Canisius on May 7.

The final non-conference doubleheader for the Purple Eagles is set for Wednesday, May 3 as Niagara will take on the University at Buffalo Bulls starting at 3 p.m.

Niagara swept the Quinnipiac Bobcats in memorable fashion on April 29, picking up victories by scores of 2-0 and 8-6 at Niagara Softball Field. In the first game of the doubleheader, both teams remained scoreless through three full innings in a pitcher's duel. Bridget Hogan led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a double for Niagara, her 16th of the season, the most-ever by a Niagara player in one season. The Purple Eagles picked up RBI singles from Kendall Watkins and Rachel Funk to take a 2-0 lead. Only one runner reached base the rest of the game past the fourth inning, but Sierra Bertrand and the Niagara defense closed out the no-hitter effort. It was the first no-hitter by a Niagara pitcher since Jennifer Sansano struck out 10 batters in a 5-0 win over Manhattan on April 21, 2013.
In the second game of the day, Niagara exploded to an 8-0 lead after four innings of play, but had to hold off a late rally from Quinnipiac to clinch the 8-6 victory and doubleheader sweep. Jerri Ann Orfano hit home runs in each of her first two at-bats, picking up three RBI for the Purple Eagles. Hogan was 3-for-4 with another two doubles and two runs scored, and Taylor Moody batted 2-for-4 with two doubles and two RBI. Jennifer Szilagyi picked up her sixth win of the season, going six innings in the circle allowing five earned runs on 10 hits. Bertrand picked up her first save of the season, holding the Bobcats hitless and picking up two strikeouts in the final inning.

Niagara is on the fringe of the playoff race in the MAAC, as the Purple Eagles and Fairfield are tied for the sixth and final postseason spot at 8-8 in conference play. Fairfield holds the head-to-head tiebreaker having taken two wins over the Purple Eagles on April 2. As a team, the Purple Eagles are third in the MAAC with an overall batting average of .277. Bridget Hogan leads the MAAC with a .407 batting average. With 55 total hits, Hogan ranks fourth all-time at Niagara for hits in a season.
Hogan's 18 doubles this year are a single-season program record and tied for the MAAC lead. With 0.45 doubles per game, Hogan ranks SECOND in the NCAA in that category. Hogan has been heating up recently, with eight doubles in the last 10 games. Jerri Ann Orfano and Kendall Watkins are tied for second on the Purple Eagles and 15th in the MAAC with a .324 batting average. Orfano leads Niagara with 23 RBI, followed closely by Watkins at 22. A two-time MAAC Rookie of the Week, Watkins leads Niagara with six home runs. In the circle, Niagara is led by sophomores Sierra Bertrand (10-8, 3.02 ERA) and Jennifer Szilagyi (6-10, 3.09 ERA). Bertrand ranks third in the MAAC with 113 strikeouts in 109 innings in the circle, while Szilagyi leads Niagara with 113.1 innings pitched along with two of Niagara's four shutouts this season.

The Bulls wrap up their regular season this week, starting with Wednesday's doubleheader against Niagara. Buffalo's final MAC series of the season starts Friday against the Ohio Bobcats. Buffalo's only other doubleheader against a MAAC team this season came at Canisius on March 29. The Bulls won the first game 7-6 in eight innings before falling 4-3 to close the twinbill. In last season's matchup with Niagara, Buffalo picked up wins by scores of 6-2 and 5-3 at Niagara Softball Field.
In 41 games this season, Catrell Robertson leads Buffalo with a .308 batting average. Robertson also has a team-high three home runs. Freshmen Jessica Goldyn and Jenelle Martinez are tied for the team lead with 37 hits apiece. Martinez and Danielle Lallos are tied for Buffalo's lead with 12 extra-base hits, as both have nine doubles, two triples, and one home run on the season. Ally Power leads the Bulls with 25 appearances and 19 starts in the circle, going 3-15 with a 3.24 ERA and 95 strikeouts.
Pitcher Charlotte Miller has a team-best 2.94 ERA for Buffalo. She has a 3-8 record in 17 appearances (10 starts) with 53 strikeouts.

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