Tireless Vondrak pitches Blackbirds to victory

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It was going to be a long day for the Long Island University softball team and ace Cassie Vondrak against Wagner.

The Blackbirds fell behind by four runs to the Seahawks before Vondrak recorded an out — after a first-inning grand slam by Wagner’s Abigail Beasley.

The early onslaught prompted LIU coach Roy Kortmann to visit Vondrak in the circle to calm her down.

Whatever he said worked.

Vondrak responded by allowing only one more unearned run in a 6–5, nine-inning Northeast Conference victory over visiting Wagner in the first game of a double-header sweep on Sunday.

The victory was one of thee she picked up over the weekend.

“At that point I still had confidence in my team that we were going to come back and win it no matter what, so I had to just keep going out there and pitching to get it done,” Vondrak said.

The first game against Wagner (9–30, 2–12) gave Vondrak confidence heading into the nightcap, where she again threw a complete game in a 5–1 victory. At one point, Vondrak had retired 23 straight batters, spanning both games. She threw seven innings, allowing just one run on four hits and recorded three strikeouts.

“I felt pretty confident after the first game,” she said.

Sunday’s two wins capped off a busy weekend for the redshirt junior, who pitched both games of a double header the day before against Bryant. In a span of 48 hours, Vondrak threw three complete games — all wins — and threw over 400 total pitches.

“I’m a little tired,” Vondrak joked, “but I’m going strong still.”

The Blackbirds, the defending conference champions, couldn’t have come away with the victories without help from the offense. In the opener they chipped away at the early deficit before tying the score at 5–5 in the bottom of the fifth when Nichole Toven scored on a wild pitch.

LIU (12–31, 8–4) failed to cash in on a bases-loaded situation with one out in the bottom of the seventh, and the game went to extra innings. The Blackbirds won on a single to right field by Toven in the ninth.

“With runners in scoring position, I always want to try and go the opposite way, just tap it in play and not try to do too much,” she said.

The bats came through in the second game as well. Nicole Archer launched a line drive homerun over the centerfield wall in the second inning to give LIU a 1–0 lead.

A two-RBI double from Madison Green in the fourth extended the lead to 3–1. Celinna Cosio also added two RBIs in the win, on singles in the fourth and sixth inning.

“It was a gritty day for us,” said Kortmann.

Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at Follow him on twitter @cng_staszewski.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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