SPARKILL, N.Y. – The Queens College softball team tested fate Saturday afternoon, as the Knights aim to sketch their name in the fourth spot of the 2017 East Coast Conference (ECC) Championship. The Knights swept the Spartans of St. Thomas Aquinas College with a 6-0 shutout in the game one, before rallying in the top of the seventh for a 5-3 victory in game two in ECC play. With the wins, the Knights moved to 13-15 (10-14 ECC), while the Spartans moved to 18-24 (6-16 ECC).
The Knights were led by senior pitcher Morgan Starley, who pitched back-to-back gems following her game one victory over NYIT yesterday afternoon, haunting the Spartans all afternoon. Starley allowed only two hits, and all came in the bottom of the second with two outs, but she escaped her only danger of the afternoon by inducing Kelcy McGeehan to fly out to right field.
With their senior pitcher pitching her heart out, the Knights bats responded with the runs to support her cause, as classmate Kayla Morrissey (1-for-4, HR, RBI) homered to left field to open the scoring in the top of the fourth. Next inning, following two outs, sophomore Nicole Michaels reached first on an error before senior Stevianne Ognibene (2-for-4, R) singled to center field, allowing Michaels to advance home following an error from the outfield to double the advantage, 2-0, after five innings.
The Knights added insurance runs in the sixth and seventh to effectively put away the game led by junior ToniMarie Valeriano's two-run blast over the center field wall for a 6-0 lead. Starley (7IP, 2H, BB, 2K) retired the Spartans in order to pick up her third win of the season with a complete game in the circle to enhance the Knights' playoff spot.
The Knights picked off right where they left off in game two by taking a 2-0 lead in the top of the first, as Ognibene (2-for-3, R, BB) singled up the middle with one out. Valeriano (2-for-3, 2RBI, 2R) singled to shortstop to put runners on first and second. Senior Kristen Boody advanced the runs to third and second on a sacrifice. With two outs, Morrissey (2-for-4, 2RBI) delivered with a single through the right side to bring home both runs for a 2-0 lead.
Valeriano earned the game two start and was put under pressure right away, as Melissa Sadler (2-for-3) singled to second base to get the Spartans' inning started. But Valeriano escaped the inning by retiring the next three batters. The Knights looked to double their advantage in the top of the fourth as Morrissey reached first safely following another fielding error before sophomore Lauren Pascual (1-for-4) singled down the left field line to before advancing to second on the throw. With no outs, runners in scoring position, Collen Borum (L-11-9, 7IP, 10H, 5R, BB, 2K) worked herself out of trouble by retiring the next three batters in order.
Trailing 2-0, Ashley Landolina (1-for-3, RBI) blasted a solo shot over left center fence to get the Spartans back into the game. Looking to play postseason spoils for the Knights, the Spartans rallied in the bottom of the sixth as Alyssa Chelak (1-for-3, R) singled to right center to kick off the inning. Sadler advanced Chelak to second with a sacrifice bunt. Junior Vanessa Juengerkes relieved Valeriano in the circle to get the remaining two outs. Juengerkes got Ashley Landolina to swing in the air before a fielding error brought in two runs for the Spartans for their first lead on the day 3-2. After walking the next two batters to load the bases, Juengerkes got Briana Keaveney to strike out to escape any further damage.
Facing a 3-2 deficit, the Knight had other plans as they looked determined to earn the sweep on the day. Alyssa Neal (1-for-3, R) kicked off the top of the seventh with a single to left field before Michaels (2-for-4, R) bunted to the pitcher to put runners on first and second with no outs before a walk to Ognibene loaded the bases for the Knights. Valeriano answered for the Knights with a double to score Neal and Michaels before advancing to third on the throw as Ognibene was out at home trying to extend the scoring. Morrissey added another insurance run with a single through the left side to seal the game as the Knights rallied to take a 5-3 lead heading to the bottom of the seventh. Juengerkes (7-5) returned for the bottom of the seventh to effectively shut out the Spartans to earn her seventh win of the season pitching 1.2 innings of relief for a 5-3 game two win.
The Knights will anxiously be keeping an eye on the LIU Post vs. Bridgeport score to see if they make the ECC postseason, as they travel to Caldwell, N.J. on Sunday, April 30, as they play the Cougars of Caldwell University with first pitch set for noon.