Niagara University softball coach Al Dirschberger was in an exceedingly sour mood on Thursday afternoon.
He called a lengthy team meeting after his Purple Eagles were pounded, 7-0, by Fairfield in the opening round of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament.
The second-seeded Purple Eagles fell to 27-20 overall and play for their lives today. They take on Marist in the loser’s bracket of the double-elimination tourney at 1:00 p.m.
If they lose — the season is over. But with a win, they will play the loser of the first-round winners’ game in an effort to save the season.
“I’m very disappointed,” Dirschberger said after the game. “We did not show up to play today. We did not do anything we worked on all week. We did not swing the bats, we were not aggressive offensively. We chased pitches and did not communicate defensively.
“We played very poorly.”
What was surprising was Niagara’s ineptitude offensively. The Purple Eagles only mustered three hits — two of which were bloop singles in the first inning. The only well-hit balls all afternoon were Felicia Coffey’s double in the sixth and Heather Lohrman’s fly out to deep center in the seventh. Coffey was named the MAAC's co-player of the year Thursday, along with North Tonawanda native Katie Miranto of Canisius.
Other than that, the Purple Eagles could not touch Fairfield starter Sara Minice, a polished freshman who befuddled them all day. She finished with nine strikeouts and only one walk.
“She threw a nice game,” Dirschberger said. “She kept us off balance. She went in and out, and did a nice job.”
Another Purple Eagles killer was Kristie Trifiolis, who had three hits, three RBI and scored twice.
She put Niagara in trouble — right off the bat — literally, as she hammered Niagara starter Tiffany McCrory’s third pitch of the game well beyond the left-field fence. Onlookers could tell the ball would leave the part instantly after it was struck.
“I was trying to be aggressive on first-pitch strikes,” Trifiolis said.
“I like inside pitches and she brought it inside.”
After Jenna DiBernardo smacked a two-run single in the third for a 3-0 advantage, Trifiolis gave the Stags a 5-0 lead when she lined a two-out pitch to right field.
“She had a great day,” Dirschberger said. “Good for her. When you get to championship weekend, you have to have someone who is going to lead.”
With this disappointing result now history, the Purple Eagles have to get ready for today’s game. And, the stakes are huge — with the season on the line.
“I told them they have to be relaxed and do the things we have been doing all year,” Dirschberger said. “Be aggressive offensively and communicate better defensively.”
Dirschberger did not say who would be the starting pitcher for today’s game.
“We will sit down and review the game and make a decision later on this evening,” he said.