NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y. — It was the top of the sixth inning when Niagara University softball’s most dominant pitcher already struck out nine batters, and was too focused to know that she was three more strikeouts away from breaking her career-high. Three strikeouts later (all in one inning), Sierra Bertrand surpassed her previous record of 11 strikeouts in single game, with 12.
Bertrand is having a stellar year. The sophomore from Stirling, Ontario just broke her own season-high strikeout record of 96 set in 2016, when she came in for two innings of relief in Wednesday’s contest against the University of Akron. She currently has 98. Compared to her 2016 record of 6-10, Bertrand has also already passed that with a current record of 9-6 as well.
“I’ve came for a few tournaments with my Canadian teams before my time here at Niagara,” said Betrand on her first experiences of American softball, which is known for having a smaller strikezone. “Last year was an adjustment year but this season I’ve definitely figured the strikezone out more.”
When asked if there was any softball player that she idolized or was inspired by when growing up, Bertrand didn’t hesitate to name her pitching coach and close family friend, Joni Sontrop. Sontrop is a legend of Niagara, who pitched for the Purple Eagles from 1995-1998. Undoubtedly one of the best pitchers in school history, who to this day holds an abundance of career records for the school, including the most wins (40), strikeouts (463), shutouts (15), completed games (63) and lowest ERA (1.40), Sontrop also dominated many single season records as well.
“[Sontrop] been a family friend for a long time and watching her grow up was really inspiring to me,” said Bertrand. “She is basically the I’m here.”
For someone who is having quite an individual year as Bertrand, she makes it clear that she is selfless and feeds off of her teams energy. While surpassing her career-high in strikeouts, Bertrand recongized her team’s offensive effort in relation to the success of Niagara.
“It’s definitely easier when you’re pitching with the lead,” remarked Bertrand after a 7-5 win over Manhattan College back on April 14. “The stats are definitely a bonus but wins are a priority and thats what makes me happy.”
Bertrand and the Purple Eagles hope to keep up with their growing success this season, as they still have work to do with an overall record of 15-21 (6-6 in the MAAC). Compared to last year, there has been a noticeable increase of chemistry and experience which should only increase as the season progresses. Eight conference games remain for Niagara as they head into the final stretch of their season as they hope to extend the year into the playoffs.