STANDISH, ME - Top-seeded Saint Joseph's College (33-4, 20-2 GNAC) defeated #3 Simmons College (27-10, 17-5 GNAC), 4-1, in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Softball Championship at Richard W. Bailey Field on Sunday evening. With the result, Saint Joseph's earns an automatic berth into the NCAA DIII Softball Tournament for the fourth-consecutive season.
The Sharks, who suffered a 5-3 loss at the hands of #6 Norwich University on Friday, made an impressive run to get into the title game, posting three-consecutive losers' bracket wins on Sunday before facing the Monks in the nightcap. The teams squared off for three scoreless innings, but Saint Joseph's – playing as the away team on their home turf – snapped the string with a pair of runs off two hits in the fourth and added two more in the fifth.
After squandering a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the third, the Monks would finally get on the board one inning later, when freshman center fielder Carla Tripp (Lovell, Maine) and freshman shortstop Mariah Harrison (Buxton, Maine) rapped run-scoring singles. Junior Victoria Ramos (North Scituate, R.I.), who reached on a fielder's choice, and Tripp scored, respectively, on the base hits by the freshman pair to lift the Royal Blue to a 2-0 lead.
Simmons cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the fourth, when sophomore center fielder Heather White (Westfield, Mass.) launched a solo homer over the left field wall with two out.
Unfazed, the Monks responded immediately with a pair of runs off one hit in the top of the fifth. With junior hurler Lauren Backhaus (Windsor, Conn.) replacing starter Amanda Cordeiro (Fall River, Mass.) in the circle, senior left fielder Theresa Hendrix (Scarborough, Maine/Cheverus) and sophomore first baseman Melissa Mayhew (Hiram, Maine) both drew walks, setting the table for freshman catcher Jennifer Murphy (Andover, Mass.), who doubled to deep left field to send her teammates across the plate and extend the SJC cushion to 4-1.
The Sharks threatened in the bottom of the sixth with runners on second and third with two out, but senior hurler Rae-Marie Copan (Newton, Mass.) worked out of the tough spot on a tremendous defensive play. Facing junior designated player Jess Uschmann (Feeding Hills, Mass.), Copan induced a foul pop-up down the left field line. Hendrix sprinted near the fence to make a play and very nearly made the catch, but the ball popped off her glove into the air and was caught by Harrison, who also hustled to the vicinity, for the third out of the frame.
With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Backhaus walked to start a potential Simmons rally, but Copan was able to retire the final two batters - Emma D'Arpino (Johnston, R.I.) and Hannah Cunningham (Cotuit, Mass.) – on four pitches, as both batters popped up to short, where Harrison easily hauled in the final two outs to complete the game.
For the Monks, Murphy was 2-2 with a double and two RBI and Tripp went 2-3 with a run scored and an RBI. Copan, the GNAC Tournament Most Valuable Player, improved to 16-2 on the season after allowing one run off five hits and a walk with a pair of punch-outs in the complete-game effort.
Junior left fielder Jen Field (Windham, Maine) was the lone repeat-hitter for the Sharks, having gone 2-2 in the setback. Cordeiro takes the loss after yielding two runs (one earned) off six hits and three walks while Backhaus gave up two runs off a hit and four walks in three innings of relief.
A total of 11 players from four teams earned All-Tournament honors, including University of Saint Joseph sophomores Patti Sciglimpaglia (Norwalk, Conn.) and Mary Sciglimpaglia (Norwalk, Conn.), Johnson & Wales senior pitchers Tayla Gardner (Orangeburg, N.Y.) and Taylor Cwalinski (Jackson, N.J.), and Backhaus, Emily Cunningham (Cotuit, Mass.) and Mikaela Caracciolo (North Attleboro, Mass.) of Simmons College. Copan, Murphy, Mayhew and Hendrix earned All-Tourney accolades for the Monks.
The NCAA Tournament begins on May 7th at a site yet to be determined. The Monks will learn of their tourney future when the NCAA bracket is released at some point next Monday.
Rae-Marie Copan – Saint Joseph's – Tournament MVP
Jennifer Murphy – Saint Joseph's
Melissa Mayhew – Saint Joseph's
Theresa Hendrix – Saint Joseph's
Lauren Backhaus - Simmons
Emily Cunningham - Simmons
Mikaela Caracciolo - Simmons
Tayla Gardner – Johnson & Wales
Taylor Cwalinski – Johnson & Wales
Patti Sciglimpaglia – University of Saint Joseph
Mary Sciglimpaglia – University of Saint Joseph
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 430-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.