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Purple Eagles softball shows fight in losses to Syracuse


SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The Niagara softball team showed plenty of moxie despite losing both games of its doubleheader against the Syracuse Orange on Wednesday. 

Game 1: Syracuse 10, Niagara 6

The Purple Eagles got off to a roaring start against the Orange. Kelsey Harrigan and Kendall Watkins were walked to lead off the game, and cleanup hitter Jerri Ann Orfano was dealt a walk of her own to load the bases with just one out. After a Heather Haberman strikeout, Margaret Vesneske launched a pitch well beyond the center field wall for a grand slam that gave Niagara an early lead.
Syracuse, however, matched Niagara's mark in the bottom half of the first. The Orange took two leadoff walks of their own before Bryce Holmgren and Rachel Burkhardt's RBI singles brought home Alicia Hansen and Toni Martin, respectively. Later, with Holmgren on third, Gabby Teran on second and Burkhardt on first, Hannah Dossett sailed a high fly ball into foul territory in right field, allowing Holmgren to tag and score. The Purple Eagles were able to double-up Burkhardt at second, but a miscommunication on the field allowed Teran to steal home before Burkhardt's out ended the inning with the score level at 4-4.
Syracuse found their first lead of the game in the bottom of the second with a two-RBI single from Holmgren, but a leadoff home run from Orfano in the top of the third made it 6-5. Syracuse responded with a solo shot of their own in their half of the third to restore their two-run lead.
The score remained 7-5 until the bottom of the sixth, when the Orange scored on three straight plays to open up the game and reach 10 runs. The Purple Eagles took one back in the top of the seventh, when Haberman's fly ball to center was dropped, allowing Orfano to make it home from first after she singled with two outs.

Vesneske's grand slam was the second home run of the freshman's career. She finished the game 1-3 with four RBI. Orfano went 2-3 with one walk, one RBI and scored each time she made it on base.
In the circle, Sierra Bertrand slipped to 5-9 after taking the loss. She struck out five, but gave up seven earned runs on nine hits and three walks in 4.0 innings pitched. Jennifer Szilagyi threw the final 2.0 innings, allowing three runs (one earned) on four hits.

Game 2: Syracuse 4, Niagara 1

The first two innings of the second game were owned by the defenses, who gave up a combined one hit.
In the third inning, walks to Margaret Vesneske and Jennifer Timm put runners on the bases for the Purple Eagles, but they couldn't cash in as Syracuse notched their third out to quell the scoring threat. In the bottom of the frame, a home run from Alicia Hansen scored Jessica Heese to give the Orange the 2-0 advantage. Their lead then jumped to 4-0 after Toni Martin and Bryce Holmgren found their way home on a triple off the bat of Gabby Teran.
Both teams went down in order in the fourth inning. In the top of the fifth, Taylor Moody drew a leadoff walk to get things rolling for Niagara. She advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from Sarah Trifoso and sped home from there after Vesneske looped a single into right field, closing the gap to 4-1 before the end of the inning. Syracuse answered in the bottom of the inning to retain their four-run lead, then plated two more runners in the sixth to push it to 7-1.
Vesneske went 1-1 from the dish while adding two walks and an RBI. Karsen Cotton was the starting pitcher for Niagara. In 4.0 innings of work, she allowed five hits, one walk and four runs. In relief, Emily Johnston surrendered three runs (two earned) on four hits in 2.0 innings.
Up Next

Niagara will be on the road again this weekend for four MAAC games at Manhattan and St. Peter's. Their two-game series against the Jaspers will begin at 12 p.m. on Saturday, April 21. The following day will feature a doubleheader against the Peacocks with first pitch also set for noon.

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