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Softball Splits Home-Opening Doubleheader with Niagara

Courtesy:           Release: 03/03/2013

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Aurelia Gamch and Michelle Banuelos-Smith each registered home runs on Sunday, helping Bethune-Cookman Softball to a doubleheader split with visiting Niagara in non-conference action at Sunnyland Park. B-CU claimed the opener, 10-2, while Niagara took the nightcap, 5-2.

B-CU (3-13) used junior Shanel Tolbert in the pitcher's circle throughout both contests, as the Los Angeles native held the Purple Eagles in check during the opener - an eventual 10-2 win for the Cats.

Bethune-Cookman started off the game hot in the first inning courtesy a Gamch solo shot to left - her first home run of the season.

Niagara (2-7) countered in the top-half of the third when centerfielder Katelyn Gruarin kick-started the frame with a single, followed by Connal Kelly's single to third and a Brittany Richberg fielder's choice that put runners on the corner with two outs. Gruarin would come across to score from third as Richberg faked a steal of second base. B-CU catcher Melissa Berouty's throw was high to Gamch who was covering second, allowing Gruarin to swipe home on the throw.

The Cats quickly answered with two scores in the home-half of the frame.

Sophia Ortega began the at-bat with a single, while advancing to second via sacrifice bunt from Breanna Chavez. Ortega and teammate Calesha Shelley both scored two plays later on a wild pitch from Kim Bryson.

Bryson was relieved after three innings pitched, surrendering four runs (all earned) on four hits and walking two. She was replaced in the circle by Sydney Smyers who went the final frame, allowing six runs (four earned) on two hits and walking four batters.

The Wildcats picked up their biggest inning of the afternoon in the fourth with seven runs crossing the plate as the team batted around with 12 Cats coming to bat.

Banuelos-Smith began the offensive attack with a solo shot to left, her first round trip of the season. Later in the at-bat, sophomore Shelley plated two with a triple to left, before eventually coming home three batters later with a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch of junior Kelsey Rodney.

Rodney eventually scored unearned on a fielder's choice by Berouty, while Simone Ceasar also scored on the play with an error charged to Niagara's second baseman Brittany Richberg on her throw to the plate.

The Purple Eagles added a late run in the fifth, but it was not enough as B-CU took the opener, 10-2.

Tolbert earned the win - upping her record to 2-8 on the year - tossing five complete innings, allowing two earned runs on two hits with three strikeouts. The loss went to Niagara's Bryson, keeping her winless on the season at 0-4.

The Purples Eagles were led at the plate in the opener by Gruarin and Kelly with the lone hits of the contest. Meanwhile, B-CU was led by a 2-for-3 game from Shelley to go along with two RBI, while Ortega matched that with two hits in two at-bats and adding a pair of runs.

In the second game of the twin bill, Niagara used three hits from right fielder Alexis Wayne and two from catcher Amanda Werth to move past Bethune-Cookman by a count of 5-2.

The Purple Eagles scored three runs in the top-half of the second inning to break open the contest.

Gabby Lustrinelli plated Becky Zil on a fielder's choice to open the scoring. That was followed by Richberg's RBI hit-by-pitch with the bases loaded that allowed Gruarin to trot across. Lustrinelli eventually came in via bases-loaded walk to shortstop Desarae Maldonado, allowing Niagara the 3-0 advantage.

The lead stretched to 4-0 in the next inning when pinch runner Ally Gay scored on an error charged to the B-CU infield.

B-CU kept things interesting in the bottom-half of the inning as Ortega and Berouty each scored on an error charged to Niagara second baseman Richberg. That brought the lead to 5-2 in favor of the Purple Eagles.

But that's as close as the Cats would get as they were held in check offensively down the stretch, falling by a score of 5-2.

Niagara pitcher Jennifer Sansano closed out the complete game and picked up the win allowing just two unearned runs on five hits and tallying a game-high 10 strikeouts. With the win, she evened her record at 2-2 on the campaign.

The loss went to B-CU's Tolbert who dropped to 2-9 on the year.

Bethune-Cookman was led offensively by five batters each recording hits, including Berouty who also added her run in the fourth. Chavez would finish 1-for-2 at the dish, while Gamch, Ceasar and Rodney rounded out the hits column for the Maroon and Gold.

Bethune-Cookman will be back in action Wednesday, March 6 as the Wildcats host Providence College to Sunnyland Park for a pair of games slated to begin at 1 p.m.

Admission to all B-CU home games is free.

For all the latest information on the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats, follow the official Twitter feed, @BCUathletics, or "Like Us" on Facebook at Bethune-Cookman Athletics.

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