#2 Pioneers Win NEC Tournament Opener Over #3 Quinnipiac, 4-3
Moon Township, PA – The second-seeded Sacred Heart softball team defeated archrival Quinnipiac, 4-3, in the first round of the 2011 Northeast Conference tournament. Taylor Froelich (Garden Grove, CA), the NEC player of the year, went 3-for-4 at the plate with a RBI. However, it was Nicole Sidor (West Vancouver, BC) who supplied the biggest hit of the day, a two run single in the third inning. Melissa Tobin (Hudson, MA) scored the game winning run in the bottom of the sixth, crossing the plate after an errant throw on Froelich's delayed steal of second found its way into center field.
Quinnipiac (30-26) scratched out the first run of the day without the benefit of a base hit. The Bobcats capitalized on a SHU fielding error to take a 1-0 advantage in the second frame. The Pioneers stranded three runners in the opening inning after loading the bases with one out. SHU filled the bags again in the third inning and Sidor's base knock through the center of the diamonds put the tournament's second seed on top, 2-1.
Sacred Heart (28-19) would extend the lead in the bottom of the fourth, continuing to exhaust NEC pitcher of the year Heather Schwartzburg. Nikki Surkes (Brightwaters, NY) started the inning with a pinch hit leadoff walk. After a sacrifice and a wild pitch advanced the runner to third, Froelich ripped a base hit to center to make it 3-1, SHU.
The Bobcats would pull even in the top of the sixth and started the frame with three consecutive singles to cut the Pioneer advantage to 3-2. Quinnipiac then successfully executed a double steal with runners at the corners to knot the game at 3-3. Sacred Heart senior Jen Russell, an All-NEC first team selection, halted the momentum and recorded three straight outs to keep the score line level.
Tobin started the rally in the Pioneers half of the sixth by reaching base with a one out bunt single. Froelich kept the frame alive with two down on her third base hit of the game, putting runners at first and third. Froelich took off from first base trying to draw a throw from Ashley Heiberger, the QU catcher and NEC defensive player of the year. Heiberger surprisingly airmailed the throw into center field and allowed Tobin to score easily, giving Sacred Heart a 4-3 lead with three outs separating the second seed from a victory.
The Pioneers saw the Bobcats put a pair of runners on base after being hit by a pitch with the rain falling at the North Athletic Complex. Jade Bowins (Frederick, MD) ran down a potential game tying bloop and made a basket catch to record the third out of the inning and move Sacred Heart into the first semifinal game of the tournament.
The tournament saw its first delay begin in the third inning of the Quinnipiac versus Central Connecticut State elimination game. The Pioneers are slated to take on top-seed Robert Morris at the conclusion of the CCSU and QU tilt. For all tournament and weather updates fans should check the NEC championship home page at www.northeastconference.org.
****Update - #2 SHU vs. #1 RMU has been postponed until Saturday, May 14, start time still to be determined.