Springer Powers Central to First Tourney Final

The Blue Devils have shown all year that their lineup can hit from top to bottom and if one person struggles, someone else will pick them up and that’s just what Nicole Springer did today.

The senior third baseman broke a 3-3 tie in the fifth inning with her second home run of the day en route to a 5-4 victory and giving CCSU its first Northeast Conference tournament finals appearance in history.

Springer said in her post game interview on NEC Front Row that she was “swinging out of her shoes.”

With Arielle Bruno and Kat Malcolm struggling today, Springer picked up the slack early and often. In the first inning, with two outs and the bases empty, Springer lined her first long ball of the day out to right field. Kelsey Barlow walked and Tessa Brown singled down the left field line to put two more runners on base before the super freshman Evie Rentzel could drive in another. She dropped a bloop single into center and Barlow scored from second.

For the second straight game, CCSU scored two runs in the first and Laura Messina came back in the second to strike out the side.

Brittany Ernst, who had a rough first game, reached base to lead off the second with a bunt right in front of the plate. She moved to second and then third on sacrifice hits, then Springer came to the plate. She singled to center field for her second two-out RBI hit of the day and CCSU led 3-0 after two innings.

LIU came back in the third to tie the game when their top hitter, Lauren Morizi drove in Ariana Lopez who reached on an error when Bruno couldn’t get the ball out of her glove at second. Nichole Toven followed with a single of her own to left allowing Morizi to score; Toven reached second on a throwing error. Nicole Archer singled home Toven to tie the game. All of the runs scored in the game up to this point were scored with two outs.

Springer’s second home run came leading off the fifth. This was her 10th of the year, tying her own single-season record and 20 for her career.

Brown single to left, but was retired at second when Rentzel grounded out 4-6. Eileen Purcell came up and lined a double down the left field line scoring Rentzel for what would be the winning run.

The Blackbirds got one back in the sixth when Whitney West drove in Lopez, but failed to score anymore.

Messina retired the side in order in the seventh to send the Blue devils to their first ever NEC championship game. Central is now 2-2 in tournament games overall.

Monmouth defeated Robert Morris in the second game of the day and the first elimination game 5-2. Monmouth then had to play LIU for a spot in the finals vs. CCSU. The rain began falling and the game was called in the top of the second. Play will resume tomorrow at noon and the championship game will be played at 2:30 p.m.

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LIU-Brooklyn vs. CCSU tourney preview

Before the Blue Devils take on the LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds at 10:30 a.m. lets take a look at the matchup.

Back on March 24, the first weekend of Northeast Conference play, the Blue Devils opened with their New York City trip. Two against Wagner College and two more vs. LIU.

Long Island won the NEC tournament last year and is always a tough opponent.

When I talked to coach Jeff Franquet last week, he told me that even though the Blackbirds are the fourth seed and were swept by Central in the beginning of the season, they are always tough at the end and you can’t compare Friday’s team with the one back in March.

LIU plays probably the toughest non-conference schedule in the league which included three nationally ranked teams and a number of others from big conferences such as the Big East, ACC, Big Ten and SEC. And just as I heard on the NEC Front Row broadcast today, LIU takes a little while to “learn how to win again” once they begin their conference schedule, but the top tier teams prepare them for tournament play.

In the first game of the double-header back on March 24, CCSU used seven runs in the top of the sixth to win the game 9-1 after the mercy rule was applied. The offense was led by Arielle Bruno who had four RBIs including a 3-run home run off of Cassie Vondrak, who currently holds a 13-20 record with a 4.08 ERA. She pitched LIU to their game one victory on Thursday. The Blackbirds have possibly one other pitcher they could use vs. CCSU in Nicole Archer, but it’s unlikely and we will most likely see Vondrak vs. Messina in this winners bracket game.

Archer pitched six innings in the second game a month and a half ago, but came in in the second after Heather White gave up home runs to Bruno and Tessa Brown in the first inning. CCSU went on to win that one 5-0.

In the two games, Messina pitched 13 innings, struck out 12 batters and gave up one run. Look for the sophomore to be ready to go today.

Both teams can hit the ball deep, so I look for at least one home run on the day and Lauren Morizi of LIU has one of the top batting averages in the league (.396), but Messina will come right after her and the rest of the order.

The Blue Devils offense is rolling and conference Player of the Year Kat Malcolm leads the charge. With a home run yesterday and three RBIs, the center fielder will be right in the middle of the Blue Devils scoring opportunities again today, along with Bruno in the lead-off spot.

LIU-Brooklyn defeated Robert Morris University 7-3 in the second game of the opening round on Thursday.

The game begins at 10:30 and is live on NECFrontRow.com, that’s where I am watching and I am tweeting from @DCTViper89 throughout the game.