SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - The Saint Michael's College softball team opened its northern schedule on Wednesday by splitting a doubleheader with regional power Southern New Hampshire University at American International College's Judy Groff Field. The Purple Knights lost the opener, 9-1 in six innings, before claiming the nightcap, 5-3, against a team receiving votes toward the latest National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) national poll. The Purple Knights are 1-10, while the Penmen, who advanced to the 2016 NCAA Tournament East Super Regional, are 12-8 overall and 1-3 in the Northeast-10 Conference.
Saint Michael's, which also split a doubleheader last year when Southern New Hampshire was ranked 25th in the nation, had not played since March 17 in Florida, going 18 days between games due to scheduling complications caused by the weather. Despite the nearly three weeks off, it was actually only tied for the sixth-longest layoff in program history; the Purple Knights went a record 33 days between contests in 2000.
First-year Torie Rathwell (Guilderland, N.Y./Guilderland) homered in each end of the twinbill, hitting a solo shot in the opener to account for the Purple Knights' lone run. Junior Danielle Brown (Vergennes, Vt./Vergennes Union) carried a shutout into the third before allowing six runs in five frames. She walked one and struck out four, improving her career strikeout total to 249 through 291.2 innings and passing Stephanie Frank '13 for third in program history. Frank's 246 strikeouts came in 518.2 frames.
Senior Jessica Torsiello was 3-for-3 with a run, four RBIs and a triple for the Penmen, who had not played since March 25. Junior Katie Horiuchi and first-year Erin Tyrell were both 2-for-4 with two runs, with Tyrell picking up an RBI and Horiuchi doubling. First-year Maddy Barone won with three no-hit, shutout innings of relief.
Brown worked around a pair of two-out errors in the first inning before Rathwell led off the top of the second with her home run. Senior Christina Brazeau (Warwick, R.I./Saint Mary Academy-Bay View) and junior Chandler Wilder (Beverly, Mass./Bishop Fenwick) both singled with one down in the third before being stranded, and the hosts broke through with four two-out runs in the bottom half, as Torsiello and senior Erin Morrissey rapped consecutive two-run singles. As Penmen pitching was setting down 11 of the final 12 Purple Knight hitters, the offense tacked on two runs on a Torsiello triple in the fifth and three more runs with two out in the sixth, when first-year Jordan Wade's two-run double invoked the eight-run mercy rule.
Game two saw senior Danielle Barbato (Hillsdale, N.Y./Taconic Hills) swat two home runs during a 3-for-4 day, which included three RBIs, two runs and a double. Rathwell drilled her second home run of the day and also earned her first college win, allowing only one earned run during a complete-game effort. First-year Danielle Markowski (Ellington, Conn./Ellington) doubled twice in three at bats with an RBI, and senior Caroline Staples (Stoughton, Mass./Fontbonne Academy) also doubled. First-year Katie Terban (Georgetown, Mass./Saint Mary's) finished 1-for-2 with a walk.
Barbato became the first Purple Knight with two home runs in a game since Kate Condon '11 hit two on March 13, 2011, and the first to do so in an NE10 game since Ashley Harkins '09 on April 21, 2007. With seven career home runs, she passed Mary Horan '78 (6) for eighth in program history. Rathwell has three home runs this season, already tying for the most by a first-year since Kathy O'Neil '81 and Dawn Stanger '81 both hit four in 1978.
Wade was 2-for-3 with a run for the hosts, and junior Sarah Lavallee was the losing pitcher as the first of three hurlers, yielding three runs on four hits in three frames.
The teams traded second-inning runs, with Markowski's two-out double plating Staples before first-year Hannah Neverett came through with an RBI knock, but Barbato laced a two-out, two-run homer to left center in the third to make it 3-1 and put her team up for good. After first-year right fielder Julia Sevigny (Rocky Hill, Conn./Rocky Hill) came up with an outfield assist to limit a Penmen threat in the third, Rathwell set down 11 of 12 batters by the top of the seventh, and Barbato and Rathwell knocked back-to-back homers with two out in the final frame to extend the lead to four runs. In the home half, three consecutive one-out errors by the visitors led to one run before sophomore Erin Garczynski's sac fly made it 5-3, but Rathwell induced a game-ending popup to Brazeau at second base with the tying run at the plate and a runner at third.
The Purple Knights are slated to host their next five games, beginning with a Saturday doubleheader against The College of Saint Rose that begins at 1 p.m.