WENHAM, MA – The Saint Joseph's College (33-7, 23-3 GNAC) softball team claimed the program's second-consecutive Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Championship with a 6-2 victory over top-seeded Emerson College (32-9, 24-2 GNAC) at Gordon College on Sunday afternoon.
With the win St. Joe's earns the NCAA Tournament berth awarded to the GNAC Tournament victor and will participate in the national tourney for the second consecutive season.
The Monks received a solid pitching performance from sophomore hurler Theresa Hendrix (Scarborough, Maine/Cheverus), who yielded two runs off four hits and three walks while fanning three, and two-RBI efforts from sophomore shortstop Lindsay Moore (Barrington, N.H.) and senior designated player Maddie Kluna (Standish, Maine) in the title tilt.
Saint Joseph's staked an early lead and never relinquished the advantage en route to the four-run triumph. In the top of the first, junior right fielder Danyelle Shufelt (Sutton, Vt.) led off the game with a double to left field, moved to third on a Connie Grovo (Limington, Maine) sacrifice bunt, and scored when Emily Leverone (Hampton, N.H.) lifted a sac fly to left field.
The Monks went on to plate three runs off three hits in the top of the third to seize control of the contest. Grovo walked, Leverone singled, and Heather Tripp (Lovell, Maine) reached on a fielder's choice – on a play that failed to produce an out - to load the bases for Moore, who singled through the left side to send Grovo and Leverone across the plate. Three batters later, Kluna drove in Moore with a fielder's choice, making it a 4-0 game in favor of the Monks heading into the bottom of the third inning.
The Lions scored their only runs of the afternoon off three hits and a walk in the bottom of the fifth. Delaney reached via base on balls and would score on a Bianca Buono (El Cajon, Calif.) single and Brittany Rochford (Irvine, Calif.), who reached on a fielder's choice, scampered home on a Shannon Torosian (Stoneham, Mass.) base knock to cut the SJC cushion down to 4-2 after five complete frames.
Looking to add some breathing room in the late innings, the Royal Blue accomplished just that with two runs off four hits in the top of the seventh. With one out, Tripp reached with a single and was lifted in favor of pinch runner Kirin Schrum (Littleton, N.H.), who would score three batters later on a Maria Labbe (Lewiston, Maine) base hit. Moore singled and scored when Kluna delivered a single to left, accounting for the 6-2 final.
For the Monks, Moore went 3-4 with two runs and two RBI, Kluna was 2-4 with a pair of RBI, and Labbe tallied two hits and an RBI in four trips to the plate. Bianca was the lone repeat-hitter for the Lions, having gone 2-4 with an RBI in a losing effort.
Emerson starting pitcher Alexandra Magistro (Hackettstown, N.J.) was hit with the loss after yielding four runs off six hits and two walks in three innings. Reliever Kelsey Tuthill (Middlefield, Conn.) allowed two runs off five hits while fanning six batters in four innings of work for the Lions.
The 2012 GNAC All-Tournament Team was announced as part of the championship postgame festivities and Hendrix was selected as the tourney's Most Valuable Player. Kluna, Leverone and sophomore hurler Rae-Marie Copan (Newton, Mass.), the winning pitcher in a Monks' semifinal victory over Emerson on Saturday, joined Hendrix on the star-studded list.
2012 GNAC All-Tournament Team:
Theresa Hendrix Saint Joseph's (ME) – Most Valuable Player
Rae-Marie Copan Saint Joseph's (ME)
Maddie Kluna Saint Joseph's (ME)
Emily Leverone Saint Joseph's (ME)
Taylor Cwalinski Johnson & Wales
Kaleigh Richardson Johnson & Wales
Ashley Gall Saint Joseph (CT)
Kristina Torres Saint Joseph (CT)
Alexandra Magistro Emerson
Shannon Torosian Emerson
Kelsey Tuthill Emerson