By John Torenli
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Junior Emily Kakuska drilled a clutch three-run homer in the top of the sixth inning to snap a scoreless deadlock, as LIU-Brooklyn rode the brilliant pitching of sophomore Cassie Vondrak to a 5-0 victory over Quinnipiac on Thursday afternoon in the opening round of the Northeast Conference women’s softball championships.
Kakuska, who batted .333 with two homers and nine RBIs during the NEC regular-season, helped the Blackbirds (14-7 in conference play this season) dent the scoreboard after Vondrak and Bobcats senior starter Heather Schwartzburg dueled valiantly over the first five frames in Moon Township, Pa.
Her three-run blast opened the scoring before senior shortstop Sterling Hoham capped a three-hit day by delivering a two-run single in the seventh to provide some breathing room for Vondrak, who hardly needed it after limiting Quinnipiac to five hits in a complete-game effort.
LIU, the No. 3 seed in the tournament, will now await the winner of the first-round contest between top-seeded Robert Morris and No. 4 Monmouth. The Blackbirds will be back in action Friday morning at 10 a.m., hoping to continue advancing toward the NEC crown and a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Earlier Thursday, LIU junior Karina Cervantes and freshman Nichole Toven were named to the All-NEC Softball First Team.
Cervantes, who entered the NEC Tournament with a career-best .313 batting average, earned first-team honors as an outfielder while Toven, who leads the Blackbirds with a .319 average, picked up first-team accolades as a utility player.
Cervantes has been stellar all season at the top of the LIU lineup, and really turned up her production level in NEC play. The Tustin, Calif. native hit .352 against league opponents. She also paced the Blackbirds with 29 runs scored and registered a career-high seven doubles.
One of the top first-year players in the NEC, Toven hit .357 in league play including nine extra-base hits. The Northridge, Calif. product, who has seen time at shortstop, third base and catcher, totaled eight doubles, six home runs and 23 RBIs while also working a team-high 22 walks.
Toven, who had a pair of home runs and seven RBIs in a 13-3 win over St. John's earlier this season, led the Blackbirds in on-base percentage (.434), slugging percentage (.507) and total bases (70).
Having already captured the NEC championship two weeks ago, the LIU-Brooklyn women’s golf team is in State College, Pa., this weekend to compete in the NCAA East Regionals.
The Blackbirds are led by freshman Cristina Felip, who claimed individual gold at the NEC Championships as well as NEC Rookie of the Year honors.
Senior Anna Palsson, the 2011 NEC individual champion, earned All-NEC Second-Team honors this year.
In her first year as head coach, Natalie Desjardins was named NEC Coach of the Year and helped the Blackbirds to a pair of tournament wins at the Lonnie Barton Invitational and the MU Hawk Invitational.
St. Francis College women’s bowling coach Dawn Gugliaro announced this week that the Terriers had signed Brick Township, N.J., native Kaitlynn Nardiello to a national letter-of-intent to join the Terriers for the 2012-13 season.
“Kaitlynn is definitely St. Francis College material,” said Gugliaro on the school’s web site. “Not only does she excel in the classroom, but she is the kind of person that wants to make a difference in others. She has proven herself on the lanes time [and] time again and I know that she will adapt and bring the same level of competitiveness to the NCAA level. She will help make the 2012-13 squad one of our strongest yet.”
Nardiello, who was last year's South Jersey Player of the Year, averaged 210 this past season. A two-time New Jersey All-State team selection, Nardiello came in third place in the State Invitational Tournament in 2011 and finished fifth this year after rolling a 628 series at the South Sectional. She anchored a team that won the Group III championship and sectionals.
In local high school sports news, defensive lineman Ebenezer Ogundeko of Brooklyn’s Thomas Jefferson High School was nominated to play in the 2013 U.S. Army All-American Bowl at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Tx.
Ogundeko, who recorded six sacks and 62 tackles in helping the Orange Wave advance to the second round of the PSAL playoffs last season before a heartbreaking loss to eventual city champion Lincoln, is the first Brooklyn player to earn this distinction since Lincoln’s Ishaq Williams in 2010.
If selected for the All-American team, Ogundeko will showcase his talents in the Jan. 5 matchup of the best high school football players in the nation.
It also provides scholastic grid stars with an opportunity to declare their university of choice, should they be offered athletic scholarships from multiple schools.
“The U.S. Army All-American Bowl provides the national platform for young athletes and musicians to showcase their talent and strength,” said Bruce Jasurda, Chief Marketing Officer, U.S. Army. “This nomination recognizes the mental, emotional and physical strengths, and leadership qualities, these athletes possess both on and off the field; qualities they share with Army Strong Soldiers. The Army congratulates all of the athletes on their nomination.”
The Brooklyn Youth Association is inviting aspiring hoops enthusiasts, ages 9 to 14, to join the organization’s 2012 Co-ed Basketball Team.
Registration for the program will be held May 12 and 19 and June 2 from 9 a.m. to noon at Voorhies Park on Columbia Street between Atlantic Avenue and Congress Street.
Games will be played at Voorhies Park on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. from June through August.
For more information, contact Mr. Fred Fulford at (917) 658-6773 or Fredstaire@aol.com.