NIAGARA UNIV., N.Y. – Wrapping up their trip to Western New York with a pair of game at Niagara University on Sunday, the Marist Softball team came within four outs of the doubleheader sweep before having to settle for a series split. After a seven-run output in Game One, the Red Foxes’ bats were held down to just three hits and two runs in their Game Two setback. With the 7-5 win and 3-2 loss, Marist moved to 15-17 overall and 4-2 in the MAAC.

Nicole Cheek (Simi Valley, Calif.) and Alyssa Zahka (Lexington, Mass.) spearheaded the Red Foxes’ offense as the freshman registered a home run and three RBIs, while the junior catcher had a team-high four hits.

In the circle, Janine Lalli (Eastchester, N.Y.) and Emily Osterhaus (Suwanee, Ga.) each allowed three earned runs in their starts with Lalli leading the way with five strikeouts over 7.2 innings pitched.

GAME ONE, MARIST 7 – NIAGARA 5: In the first game of the afternoon, the Red Foxes jumped out to an early 6-0 lead and never looked back as they held on for the 7-5 victory.

Freshman Kyrsten Van Natta (Maplewood, N.J.) led off Marist’s scoring in the top of the second inning with a leadoff home run.

After Osterhaus retired the Purple Eagles, three-up, three-down in the bottom of the frame, the Red Foxes came out in the top of the third and plated five runs to take a 6-0 lead. Freshman Maureen Duddy (San Mateo, Calif.) led off the scoring with a leadoff single to center field. Following a walk to Danielle Koltz (Chenango Bridge, N.Y.), Cheek drove in both with her eighth home run of the season. Marist rounded out its scoring with a two-out double by senior Joelle Zahka (Lexington, Mass.) scored Van Natta and Aly Klemmer (Hamilton, N.J.).

Niagara cut into its six-run deficit with three runs in the bottom of the third.

With the score 6-3, the Red Foxes made it 7-3 with a single run in the top of the fifth. Lalli led off the inning with a double out to center field. After Joelle Zahka singled up the middle and advanced Lalli to third, freshman Colleen McWilliams (Monrovia, Calif.) drove in run number seven with an RBI groundout.

The Purple Eagles closed out the scoring with two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning.

For the game, Marist outhit Niagara 10-8 as Cheek (2-4), Alyssa Zahka (2-3) and Joelle Zahka (2-3) all registered multiple hits.

Osterhaus earned the victory to improve to 7-6 on the season with 5.1 innings pitched, five runs allowed (three earned), six hits and four strike outs. Lalli pitched the final 1.2 innings for her second career save; the sophomore allowed to two hits, while striking out two Purple Eagles.

GAME TWO, NIAGARA 3 – MARIST 2: The Red Foxes once again jumped out to an early lead over the Purple Eagles, though unfortunately for them, the hosts were able to mount a late comeback in take a 3-2 result.

Marist opened the scoring in the top of the second inning as Klemmer connected for her third home run of the season to drive in two.

Lalli, the starting pitcher for the Red Foxes, made the two-run lead hold up through the first four innings, as Niagara was held hitless until the 11th batter of the game, Becky Zill, singled up the middle in the fourth inning.

The Purple Eagles scratched out their first run of the contest in the bottom of the fifth when Ambur Farmer plated Gaby Lustrinelli with a double.

With the score 2-1 in Marist’s favor going into the sixth inning, Niagara pushed across the tying and game-winning runs with three singles in a span of five batters.

For the game, Niagara’s starting pitcher Jenn Sansano contained Marist’s offense to just three hits; two singles for Alyssa Zahka and Klemmer’s home run, while retiring 11 Red Foxes via strikeout.

Lalli was saddled with the loss in the circle as she threw a complete game six-hitter, allowing three earned runs. The sophomore struck out three Purple Eagles and retired 14 via ground outs.

The Red Foxes (15-17, 4-2 MAAC) will be in action during the mid-week with a pair of non-conference doubleheaders, a Tuesday twinbill at Columbia starting at 3 p.m. and a home doubleheader on Thursday versus Colgate starting at 2:30 p.m.