Cardinals Collect Two Wins in Conference Tournament Opening Day
WASHINGTON – The Catholic University softball team collected a pair of victories during the opening day of the Landmark Conference Tournament in Selinsgrove, Pa., at Susquehanna University on Friday, May 2.
In two intense seven inning contests, CUA defeated the Greyhounds of Moravian 3-0 and the Crusaders of Susquehanna 6-5.
"We faced two very good teams today," said head softball coach Bruce McConkey. "Moravian has the player of the year and multiple all-conference ball players. While Susquehanna, who were undefeated in conference play throughout the regular season, always gives us a challenge. Beating them at any time, especially on their home field, is significant. Today's two games didn't disappoint."
Catholic's own 2014 Landmark Pitcher of the Year, Victoria Capozucca, pitched a complete game to open the weekend. In seven innings on the mound, she allowed eight hits, while striking out four and walking one.
"Victoria leads the conference with an 1.27 era," said McConkey. "She keeps hitters off balance and forces a lot of pop outs and fly balls."
The Cardinal defense also proved to be extremely effective, recording an errorless Game 1. Amy Laughner covered a significant amount of centerfield territory recording 6 putouts, while shortstop Monica Peters handled each of her chances cleanly recording five of her own.
CUA kicked the game off offensively with two runs in the top of the first. With runners on first and second, Kristina Lozupone singled through the right side of the infield scoring Rebekah Hoisl. Erin Adams then followed suit with another run scoring single, this time through the left side, to plate Laughner.
After the opening salvo, Catholic's offense fell victim to effective Greyhound pitching, being held scoreless through the next five innings.
"We weren't happy about the scoreless innings, but their pitching kept us guessing and their defense was solid," said McConkey.
Following a 6th inning Moravian error, Christy Sanchez, who had previously doubled in the game, hit a sacrifice fly to left field scoring Laughner for the game's decisive run.
After the opening win, and with just 30 minutes to prepare, CUA was then tasked with taking on tournament hosts and number one seed, Susquehanna.
The Cardinals' second game posed an immediate challenge, having to quickly shift mental focus from one tough opponent to another.
"There was only enough time to re-line the field and maybe get a sip of water," said McConkey.
CUA once again struck first, with Laughner continuing her big day scoring an unearned run in the top of the 1st. The Cardinals then added to its lead in the 4th with Rose Shaver singling to right field bringing Adams home. However, showing resolve, the Crusaders slowly dug themselves out the early game 2-0 hole, eventually taking a 5-4 lead into the game's final inning.
"Despite the deficit, our girls were not going to be denied," said McConkey. "Our kids were motivating themselves and with the leadership of this team, I knew that we had it in us to turn it around and take it."
With one out in the top of the 7th and with two Cardinals on, Shaver once again played the hero singling to center field scoring Julie Keleti to tie the ball game at 5-5. Importantly, Molly MacNeill advanced to third on the play. McConkey then made a critical decision - sending Morgan Gieser up to bat to pinch-hit.
"Morgan is our secret weapon," said McConkey. "All we needed from her was to hit a long ball and bring the runner home for the lead."
And Gieser did just that, flying out to center field, scoring MacNeill for ultimately the game's winning run. Kerri Apicella (6-7) earned a complete game victory, allowing eight hits and four earned runs while striking out three. From start to finish, the senior proved solid, inducing momentum breaking outs in crucial situations.
The Cardinals advance to the Conference Tournament's Championship game which begins Saturday at 2:00 p.m. Their opponent will be decided following the conclusion of contests from earlier in the day. As the lone team currently undefeated in tournament play, the 2-0 Cardinals need just one victory to claim the conference title.