With two wins over Quinnipiac on Saturday, members of the softball team said they are off to a good start in defending last year’s Atlantic Ten Conference championship. Although six games under .500 against a tough schedule, coach Rocci Pignoli said he is confident the team can repeat last year’s success.
“It’s nice being the champ,” Pignoli said. “Everyone is going to look out for you, but that’s alright because we are ready to go this season.”
The Owls (9-15) defeated Quinnipiac, 2-0 and 1-0, behind two strong performances by the pitching staff. Sophomore Richelle Villescas pitched all seven innings in the first game and allowed only two hits. In the second game, freshman Jen Nacianceno struck out seven players and held the Bobcats to two hits.
Pignoli said he was impressed by how the team played defensively. The Owls had no errors in either game.
The only problem against Quinnipiac was with the bats. The Owls had eight hits but scored only two runs in the first game. They managed only four hits and one run in the second leg.
“I thought we needed to be stronger at the plate,” Pignoli said. “We didn’t really come through when we needed to. We had situations where we were in scoring position, but we just didn’t get that base hit that we needed.”
Pignoli said he liked what he saw from junior Lauren Evans at third base. Evans, who batted .187 last season, hit two home runs in the first-game victory.
“I’m still trying to improve on my swings, but I feel that I performed well today,” Evans said. “I’m not going to be satisfied with just two home runs.”
Sophomore Brandie Mora contributed the only run in the second victory. Both teams were scoreless through six innings when Mora stepped to the plate with one out and none on base in the bottom of the seventh. Mora, who finished the day with two hits, delivered a homerun to left field.
Sophomore right fielder Shawn Casey’s defense helped the Owls maintain their slim lead. Quinnipiac was in a position to score in the late innings, but they lost their chance when Casey threw out Bobcats baserunner Jenna Henry at second base.
The Owls said they were excited to be playing at home after spending the first month of the season on the road.
“Everything seems to be clicking,” Evans said. “It feels good to win here at home.”
Melissa Dipento can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.