WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – UMBC softball used four home runs on Sunday afternoon to take down Hartford in a sweep of the America East doubleheader at Hartford Softball Field and help head coach Joe French to his 600th career softball victory. Sophomore utility player Danielle O'Neill (Lothian, Md./Southern) launched a pair of blasts on the day for a team-best four runs batted in, helping UMBC to defeat the Hawks, 7-5, in game one and, 5-4, in game two.
French earned his 800th career coaching victory earlier this season, having coached three collegiate sports during his career.
Junior catcher Taylor Hall (Cosby, Va./Cosby) and freshman outfielder Kelly Lane (Albany, N.Y./Colonie Central) each registered three hits on the day. Hall finished with a team-best three extra-base hits to enter into the top-10 in a single-season at UMBC in the category (25).
The Retrievers, who held the fourth and final playoff spot entering into the weekend, continue to battle for their first playoff appearance since 2011, improving to 30-17 on the season and 7-6 in America East action, while the Hawks fall to 7-27 overall and 1-13 in the conference.
Hartford jumped out in front 1-0 in game one with three singles in the bottom of the first inning, but the Retrievers were able to even the score with an unearned run from Lane in the top of the second inning. A solo home run to left field in the fourth from UMBC senior first baseman Chelsea Bertoglio (Laguna Hills, Calif./Laguna Hills/Saddleback College) put the Retrievers out in front 2-1 and back-to-back doubles from sophomore short stop Bridget O'Malley (Brooklyn, Md./Seton Keough) and Hall in the sixth further extended the lead to 3-1.
The Hawks led-off the bottom of the sixth with a walk and a stolen base from short stop Marisa Ferguson and followed with a single to right field from catcher Sawyer Fried to put runners on first and third. A stolen base for Fried setup a two-run single down the right field line from Margaret Betz and tied the game at three apiece.
UMBC junior outfielder Mary Hartman (Eldersburg, Md./Century) drilled her first of two doubles on the day with one out in the top of the seventh inning. O'Neill followed with her first home run of the day, a shot to left center field, to put the Retrievers back out in front, 5-3. O'Malley reached base for the third time in game one and Hall helped by adding UMBC's second home run of the frame to put the Retrievers on top, 7-3, and move into a tie for sixth on the program's single-season home run list (12).
Hartford's second baseman Amber Andrews brought the Hawks back within two, 7-5, with a two-run double to right center in the bottom of the seventh inning, but it was not enough to complete the comeback. UMBC starting pitcher Jessica Holte (Ashland, Va./Atlee) moved into a tie for sixth on UMBC's single-season wins list with her 17th victory of the campaign. She allowed five earned runs on nine hits in her 19th complete-game of the year, tying for sixth on UMBC's single-season list.
O'Malley and Hall each finished two-for-three from the dish against Hartford starting pitcher Zuzana Kudernatschova. Kudernatschova threw the complete-game and surrendered six earned runs on nine hits and struck out six.
Hartford starter Kaitlyn Meade struggled with control early in game two, walking four of the first five batters of the game. A single to right center from Lane scored a pair of runs in the top of the first inning. Hartman led-off the second with a double and O'Neill followed with her second home run of the day, this one to center field. Three more walks cued the exit of Mead, but a single from Bertoglio off of reliever Lexi Wilkerson extended the advantage to 5-0 in favor of the Retrievers.
Two of the Hawks' three runs in the bottom of the fourth inning were unearned, but brought Hartford back within two, 5-3. An RBI-groundout from Andrews in the bottom of the seventh made it a one-run ball game, but UMBC starter Nicole Casagrand (Horsham, Pa./Hatboro-Horsham) held off the Hawks with the final out of the contest. Casagrand threw the complete-game victory to improve to 6-3 on the year. She allowed two earned runs on eight hits.
The series concludes on Monday, April 28 with a single game at 11 a.m. at the Hartford Softball Field.