WEST HARTFORD, CT - Tournament Most Valuable Player Kayla Vannah (Waldoboro, Maine) threw five shutout innings and was backed by eight first-inning runs to help lift fourth-seeded Saint Joseph's College (33-9, 18-6 GNAC) to an 8-0 victory over #8 Suffolk University (16-25, 11-13 GNAC) in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Softball Tournament Championship game at University of Saint Joseph (Conn.) on Sunday afternoon.
The Monks recorded a 4-0 record during the tournament thanks in large part to an otherworldly effort by the pitching staff, as three hurlers combined to toss 27 shutout innings with 19 strikeouts while allowing 16 hits and one walk during the playoffs. Vannah, who yielded four hits with a walk and three K's this afternoon, led the staff by fanning 12 with 14 hits and one walk allowed in 18.1 tournament innings en route to claiming the MVP honor.
With the victory, Saint Joseph's – winners of three-consecutive conference crowns – earn the NCAA automatic qualifier awarded annually to the GNAC Champion and will begin NCAA Regional play, site TBA, on Thursday, May 9th. Eight regional winners advance to the NCAA National Championship round, May 17-21 at Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
The Monks provided Vannah with far more support than she required in the first inning, as the Royal Blue scored all eight of their runs off seven hits and a Suffolk error in the first frame.
Senior Danyelle Shufelt (Sutton, Vt.), junior Connie Grovo (Limington, Maine) and junior Lindsay Moore (Barrington, N.H.) started off the game with three-consecutive singles and senior catcher Heather Tripp (Lovell, Maine) made it four base knocks with an RBI hit to right field. Junior Theresa Hendrix (Scarborough, Maine/Cheverus) plated a pair with a single to center and later scored, along with Tripp, on a throwing error to provide the Monks with a 5-0 advantage. Shufelt came up for her second at bat of the opening inning and belted a three-run triple to left center to essentially put the game out of reach for the Rams.
Suffolk threatened in the bottom of the first with bases loaded and one out, but Vannah hunkered down and induced a shallow fly to center and a groundout to second to cease the Rams' scoring opportunity.
Shufelt led the Monks offensively by going 3-4 with a run, a triple and three RBI and Hendrix went 2-3 with a run and a pair of RBI in the mercy-rule triumph. Julia Ludvigsen (Dedham, Mass.) had a single and a double in two at bats for Suffolk.
Sophomore starting pitcher Sarah Chasse (Salem, Mass.) did not record an out and allowed five runs off five hits to take the loss. Sophomore Alicia Gonnella (Bridgewater, N.J.) finished the game and yielded three runs (two earned) off four hits and three walks while fanning four over five innings.
In addition to Vannah, Shufelt, Hendrix and Moore earned GNAC All-Tournament honors for Saint Joseph's. Shufelt hit .429 (6-14) with three runs, a double, a triple and three RBI in four tourney tilts while Moore hit .462 (6-13) with two runs, two doubles, a home run and four RBI during the playoffs. Hendrix batted .636 (7-11) with two runs, a two-bagger and a pair of RBI and also clinched the win in the circle after tossing 1.2 scoreless innings of relief in a 1-0 opening-round victory over Johnson & Wales University on Wednesday.
Alicia Gonnella, Sarah Chasse and Erin McAndrews from Suffolk, Emily Hummel and Mary Sciglimpaglia from the University of Saint Joseph (Conn.) and, Kirstie Clark and Marissa Mercier from Rivier also claimed All-Tournament honors.
Saint Joseph's College is Maine's only Catholic liberal arts college, providing a supportive, personalized and career-focused education for more than 100 years. From its 350-acre campus on the shores of Sebago Lake, the College offers more than 40 undergraduate programs to a population of approximately 1,000 students. Saint Joseph's College Online provides certificates, undergraduate and advanced degrees for working adults through an online learning program. For more, visit www.sjcme.edu.