Softball: Norwich sweeps Rivier in GNAC DH

Makenna Wade - USJ fielding _ Softball

NASHUA, N.H. – The Norwich University softball team kept its home Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) First Round playoff chances alive with a doubleheader sweep of Rivier in league action on Saturday afternoon.

The Cadets won Game 1, 5-2 behind a 14-strikeout performance from sophomore pitcher Rachel Johnson (Stockbridge, Vt.) and two RBIs from sophomore Emily Oliver (Sagamore Hills, Ohio). 

Norwich (12-19-1, 10-10 GNAC) completed the sweep in Game 2 with a 7-3 win and stretched its winning streak to four straight games. Sophomore Naomi Rinaldo (Middlefield, Conn.) went 2-for-4 with three RBIs, while Katie Reid (Gold Canyon, Ariz.) had two RBIs to lead the offense. 

NU can secure the No. 6 seed in the GNAC Tournament and a home first round playoff game vs. Emmanuel with a sweep against Lasell on Sunday. If NU were to lose one or both of the games, the Cadets would travel to Emmanuel instead on Tuesday. 

The winner of that game will advance to the double-elimination portion of the tournament to be played May 5-7. 

Norwich used a four-run sixth inning to break a close 1-0 game wide open in the opener on Saturday. The Cadets capitalized on an error by the Rivier third baseman to score two runs off the bat of Oliver. Makenna Wade (Pensacola, Fla.) then had a bunt single to reach first and also score Oliver. Sarah Perry (New Bedford, Mass.) had a RBI ground out to plate Wade for the Cadets' fifth and final run. 

Rivier mounted a small comeback in the bottom of the seventh with MiKayla Ramsdell reaching an on error by NU's first baseman that allowed Kasey Smith and Jessica Silva to score unearned runs. However, that's as close as Rivier would get as Johnson took care of Evelyn Susko for her 14th and final strikeout of the game and the 30th in her last two games. 

Johnson improved to 8-7 on the year and increased her GNAC-leading strikeout total to 162, while lowering her earned run average to 2.57 on the year. 

In Game 2, Norwich broke a 1-1 tie with five runs in the top of the fourth inning and never looked back. Madison Miller (Long Lake, N.Y.) had a bunt single for one of her three hits in the second game to score Wade. Reid then singled to left field to plate Perry and make it 3-1. Rinaldo broke the game wide open with a three-run double to score Miller, Reid and Justina George (Wallingford, Conn.)

Rivier tried to mount another bottom of the seventh comeback as the Raiders scored twice, but that's as close as they would get, falling 7-3. Oliver continued her recent surge in the circle, improving to 4-10 and picking up the win. She struck out five and walked three while giving up seven hits and three earned runs. 

Norwich takes on Lasell in its regular season finale on Sunday at 12 p.m. and 2 p.m.