SMITHFIELD, R.I. – The Bryant University softball team enters the final weekend of Northeast Conference regular season play, facing Mount St. Mary's in a doubleheader on Saturday and LIU Brooklyn in a twin bill on Sunday.
At 5-7 in the Northeast Conference, the Bulldogs are tied in fifth with Mount St. Mary's. The Black and Gold will face the Mount on Saturday. The only team to clinch a place in the conference postseason, is league-leading Saint Francis U. who sits 12-0 in NEC play. Robert Morris holds the second spot, having swept the Bulldogs in early April, while third-ranked Wagner and fourth-ranked Sacred Heart have split with the Bulldogs this spring.
BREAKING THE STREAK
The Bulldogs are on a four-game losing streak, giving up doubleheaders to Providence and Saint Francis U. last week. Game two against the Friars went to extra innings, but the Red Flash dominated in Smithfield, holding the Black and Gold to no runs off two hits in the two games combined.
KEAST THE BEAST
Senior Lauren Keast (Holliston, Mass.) has recorded a hit in nine of the last 11 games, including three doubles. Coupled with a .382 batting average, .471 slugging percentage and .389 on base percentage, the left fielder has remained perfect in the field, totaling 25 putouts and one assist in the last 11 games. Keast ranks second in the conference in sacrifice hits per game and 51st in the country with 0.23 per game.
The Bulldogs have improved their play in the league, averaging .228 batting, a .305 on base percentage and .320 slugging percentage. In just 12 league contests this season, the Black and Gold have totaled half the home runs they've earned this season. The Bulldogs' pitching staff posts a 2.89 ERA against league opponents versus 5.04 on the season.
SCOUTING THE MOUNT
The Mount (19-26, 5-7 NEC) enter Saturday's contest after winning back-to-back games against Howard. In NEC play, the Mount have split games with Sacred Heart, Central Connecticut and LIU Brooklyn, while sweeping Fairleigh Dickinson in early April. Mount has totaled 33 home runs this season, led by Rachel Heinze's 11. The team ranks 94th in the country with 0.67 homers per game, while Heinze sits 42nd in home runs and 48th in homers per game. Sister Lindsay Heinze ranks 36th in the nation with 0.33 doubles per game, while the Mount is 39th in the category with 1.44 per game.
SCOUTING THE BLACKBIRDS
Reigning NEC Champions, LIU (18-30, 4-8 NEC) will enter Sunday's contest after hosting Central Connecticut in a league doubleheader on Saturday. Most recently, the Blackbirds split games with Fairleigh Dickinson on the road. LIU holds an NEC-leading .301 batting average, ranking them 55th in the country, as they are headed by Victoria Zamora's .384 average. Zamora also leads the team with 56 hits and .480 on base percentage. The junior holds five top-five rankings in the NEC and four top-100 rankings in the country.
The Bulldogs and Mount are tied 7-7 in the Division I series record with the Bulldogs winning five of the last seven outings. Bryant earned their only sweep over the Mount in 2014 and defeated them by the largest margin, 13-0, in five innings in 2015. The Blackbirds lead the Bulldogs, 9-8, in the Division I series, topping Bryant most recently in last year's NEC Tournament. The Black and Gold swept LIU in the 2014 NEC Tournament en route to the conference title. In the same year, the Bulldogs earned their largest win over LIU, 11-0, in five innings in the regular season.