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Pioneers and Knights visit Smithfield for Friday and Saturday doubleheaders

Pioneers and Knights visit Smithfield for Friday and Saturday doubleheaders

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Still in search for their first win at Conaty Park, the Bryant University softball team returns to NEC action, hosting Sacred Heart and Fairleigh Dickinson for back-to-back doubleheaders on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

The Bulldogs (7-28, 2-4) have found much more success offensively in conference play, batting .232 against NEC competitors versus .201 in non-league games. The Black and Gold have also improved their on base percentage to .300 and their slugging percentage to .311. The Bryant pitching staff has lowered its average ERA from 5.15 against non-conference opponents to 2.73 when facing batters in the NEC.

Freshman Nicole Zukowski (Medford, N.Y.) went 2-for-4 against Harvard, totaling three RBI, the firsts of her career. Zukowski drove in two runs in the bottom of the first that gave the Bulldogs their only lead over the Crimson, 2-1. The first baseman has recorded hits in six of the last eight games, elevating her batting average to a team-high .375 in the last eight.

Bryant remains winless at Conaty Park this season, sitting 0-6 on their home turf, most recently losing to the Crimson, 6-5, at home. The Harvard game marked the beginning of a five-game home stand, four of which come against conference foes. In Smithfield, the Bulldogs average .195, while competitors average .318. The Black and Gold have been outscored 29-13 at Conaty and total 29 hits and 43 strikeouts.

Junior Robyn Ukegawa (Carlsbad, Calif.) ranks third in the conference and 116th in the country in walks per game, averaging 0.56. The captain has been walked 18 times this season, including a season-high three times against both CSU Bakersfield and Quinnipiac. The catcher has translated 18 walks into four runs this year.

The Pioneers (9-18, 1-1 NEC) have lost three-consecutive games and remain winless on the road, sitting at 0-8. SHU has played just two conference games in which they split with Central Connecticut, winning, 2-0, and losing, 3-2, in eight innings. The Pioneers' win over CCSU marks their only win over a regional team.

Jamie Carlson is the reigning NEC Pitcher of the Week after allowing only nine hits and three walks, while surrendering no runs in 14.2 innings last week. In the same time frame, the senior struck out 17 batters, totaling 110 on the season. The righty is making a name for herself on the national stage, ranking in the top 120 in five categories. The national rankings include ERA (118th – 2.09), hits allowed per seven innings (69th – 5.07), shutouts (24th - 5), strikeouts (92nd - 95) and strikeouts per seven innings (58th – 7.6). Carlson ranks top two in the conference in each of the categories, including her league-leading five shutouts this season.

The Knights (2-23, 0-6 NEC) have dropped the last seven games, including doubleheader losses to NEC foes Wagner and Mount St. Mary's. Most recently, FDU fell to Rider in two games, 4-2, 5-0. The Knights have recorded their only two wins this season over UT Chattanooga, 8-7, in eight innings and UMass, 4-3.

The Knights average .248 as a team, while Reanna Cervantes heads the offense with a .377 batting average, placing her fourth in the NEC. Cervantes' .558 slugging percentage also leads the unit, while placing her fourth in the league and 136th nationally. The pitching staff has struggled this season, averaging a 7.37 ERA. Irene Herrera posts a team-best 6.49 ERA, sitting 0-4 on the season. Baylee Ports leads the staff with 27 strikeouts, while also allowing a team-high 73 hits and 58 runs.