FLUSHING, N.Y. - The Queens College softball team rebounded from two defeats on the road against Bridgeport earlier in the week by sweeping the Purple Knights in Saturday's East Coast Conference (ECC) doubleheader.
The games were alike only in the two emphatic home runs the Knights had to start each game. Senior Kristen Boody's three-run crack in the first inning of game one swung the tide in what became a wild 10-7 victory, and ToniMarie Valeriano's two-run shot to open the second provided Queens just enough to win a game she also pitched in, 2-1.
With the sweep, the Knights improved their record to 9-11 overall and 6-10 in the ECC and jumped Bridgeport in the conference standings in the process. Bridgeport now holds a 16-17 overall record and is 5-9 in conference play.
Queens College rode an early wave of excellent hitting, none more resounding than Boody's three-run homer in the bottom of the first inning, to pounce on Bridgeport in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader.
After a pair of painful errors landed Bridgeport's Allison Luzzi first on base and then into home as the game's opening run, Boody blasted her home run over the left-field fence to score Stevianne Ognibene, on-base because of a center-field double, and Valeriano, who reached on an infield single. The pulse of the game already radically turned, Queens led 3-1 after the first inning.
The Knights' momentum soared into the second. Starting pitcher Vanessa Juengerkes secured a quick one-two-three inning in the top of the second to set up the team's bottom-half offensive explosion. Five Knights reached on walks from Bridgeport's ace, Kaitlyn Lajoie, the latter two coming with the bases already loaded following two timely RBI-doubles by Nicole Michaels and Ognibene. Bridgeport then brought on Ashley Eisnor in relief while facing a 7-1 deficit before Juengerkes put a stamp on the inning she so fittingly started by providing another RBI-single to make it 8-1 for the Knights.
Queens stretched its lead to eight runs, 9-1, with Valeriano's RBI-single in the bottom of the third bringing in Michaels, before a resilient Purple Knights' lineup erupted for six runs in the top of the fourth. Jenna Dilorenzo started the surge with a single to right field, and Bridgeport batted in six hits before the inning was through, the capper coming during DiLorenzo's second at-bat where she roped an RBI-double to left center that brought the visitors to within two, 9-7, before the Knights secured a ground out to end the inning.
Senior Morgan Starley got the Knights out of the fourth and helped her team rebound in the fifth inning by quickly dispatching the middle of Bridgeport's lineup, and Queens added another run to stabilize their lead when MaryJane D'Agostino scored from third on a sacrifice fly by Ognibene. And the game's early fireworks gave way to small crackles near the end; leading 10-7, Starley (1-1) closed out the sixth and seventh innings with only three additional hits added to her total and claimed the win for the Knights.
After connecting for two hits and scoring two runs in the Knights' offensive outburst in game one, Valeriano (3-5) left an indelible mark on the afternoon's second game. The Knights' junior was responsible for all of Queens College's runs with her two-run blast, and on defense, pitched four scoreless innings against the Purple Knights.
To start, Valeriano survived a double from DiLorenzo while dispatching the top of Bridgeport's order in the top half of the first inning before teaming up with Ognibene for the Knights' only two runs. Ognibene got in scoring position following her triple to right field with Valeriano on deck. Valeriano then launched the ball over the left field fence for her first home run of the season and an early 2-0 lead.
Bridgeport struggled to find any traction in their turns at the plate with Valeriano in full control. She had three strikeouts against one hit through three innings, and Queens almost added another run to their lead in the bottom of the third by trying to stretch a run from second to home. Valeriano was thrown out at the plate in the attempt, and the score remained 2-0 heading into the fourth.
Valeriano added two more strikeouts to her total in the top of the fourth, her final inning in charge, but was on the unfortunate end of an unearned run when an error with two outs opened an opportunity for DiLorenzo to score the Purple Knights' first run. Queens still led 2-1 through four.
Juengerkes came on in relief to start the fifth and expertly held Bridgeport's offense in check, striking out a batter for her first out before snagging a line drive hit back to the circle and sparking a double-play to end the inning. Two more innings of scoreless play had followed before the Knights held on for the tight 2-1 victory, with Juengerkes recording the save in the process.
Valeriano was perfect in her two appearances at the plate, with the all-important home run providing the critical difference between the two teams. Ognibene, Juengerkes, and Michaels all added hits to the Knights' total of five.
Queens will host Molloy College in an ECC doubleheader on Tuesday, April 18, beginning at 3 p.m.