CLERMONT, Fla. – Shut-down pitching from senior hurlers Paige Cormier (Rochester, N.H.) and Tayla Trask (Lincoln, Maine) paired with timely hitting from freshmen Leah Hunt (Londonderry, N.H.) and Hannah Paitchel (Pelham, N.H.) and junior Micaela Criscione (Franklin, Mass.) led the Saint Anselm softball team to a double-header sweep of Saginaw Valley State Thursday afternoon at the PFX Spring Games, notching a 3-2 win in the opener before adding a 4-3 victory in 8 innings in the nightcap.
The wins improve the Hawks to 5-1 overall in their 2015 campaign—the program's best start since 2002 when that team went 6-1 to start the year. Saginaw Valley State dropped to 8-6 on the year.
Cormier pitched an absolute gem through the first three innings, retiring eight straight batters and picking up two strikeouts before giving a third-inning double to the nine-hitter. The senior hurler came back and retired the next batter with a foul-out to Saint Anselm third-baseman Hannah Byrne () to keep the Cardinals off the board.
Freshman catcher Megan Murrell (Scarborough, Maine) was the only Hawk to record a hit over the first three innings with a pair of singles in the first and third innings, but Saint Anselm was also kept scoreless through four innings.
SVSU would strike first in the top of the fifth, as an error allowed leadoff hitter Shelby Weeks to reach. Ensuing pinch-hitter Amanda Kimes found a gap between Cormier and junior first-baseman Pattie Turner (Warwick, R.I.) on a bunt and both runners were safe with no outs. Marcy Medina then blasted a double just over the outstretched glove of Hunt in right to score Weeks and move Kimes to third. Cormier would battle back to record three straight outs to get out of the inning with just a 1-0 deficit.
The Hawks nearly got that run back in the bottom of the fifth, but Paitchel was cut down at home trying to score from second after a deep Byrne shot to left but a perfect throw to the plate ended the threat.
A second-straight leadoff batter would reach on an error in the top of the sixth and promptly stole second base. Another deep shot to right center, this time by Evy Lobdell, scored the second run of the game for the Cardinals. The Hawks quickly cut down Lobdell after a sacrifice bunt moved Lobdell to second, but SVSU baserunner was tagged out returning to second. Cormier closed out the inning with a strikeout to shut down the side.
Facing a 2-0 deficit, Saint Anselm came roaring back in the sixth, as a Turner shot blast came just inches from clearing the fence in left center for a leadoff double. Junior Julie LeClair (Taunton, Mass.), in a pinch-hitting role, moved Turner to third and advanced to second with a single up the middle as the Hawks chased SVSU starter Sarah Vrabel out of the circle. On the third pitch of the at-bat against Cardinal pitcher Annie Hansen, Hunt came through with a crack up the middle that scored both junior base runners and tied the game at 2-2. A bunt by senior Hayley Leclaire (Hudson Falls, N.Y.), ensuing walk and fielder's choice gave the Hawks runners and first and second with two outs, and Paitchel knocked in junior Emily Crannell (Wilmington, Mass.) for the would-be game-winning run with another shot up the middle.
Cormier induced a foul-out to Paitchel and two consecutive strikeouts in the top of the seventh to pick up her first win of the year in thrilling fashion.
Game two was a similar storyline as strong pitching dominated the game. The first two innings were akin to a Strauss waltz as both teams went 1-2-3 in the batter's box. The Cardinals would again strike first, this time in the third inning as another error led to a leadoff base runner. Trask would record a strikeout after the runner was bunted over, but a dropped third strike and a Murrell throw to third to hold the runner at second gave the Cardinals two runners with just one out. A groundout moved the runners up 60 feet, and a hard shot back to Trask was knocked down but the speedy SVSU runner scored to give the Cards an early lead.
Saint Anselm responded in the bottom of the fourth as Paitchel led off with a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. A walk to Byrne and another passed ball gave the Hawks runners at second and third with one out, when Turner reached on a bobbled ball by the first baseman that scored both Paitchel and Byrne. Two putouts by SVSU would end the inning, but the Hawks claimed their first lead of the game, 2-1.
Saginaw Valley State would answer quickly with a Medina rocket to center field and the ensuing batter poked a single up the middle to tie the game at 2-2 with no outs. A groundout moved NAME Stickler to third and NAME Rousse pushed a hot shot through the right side to reclaim the lead after 5 ½.
The Hawks came back in the sixth with a Byrne double that was misplayed in left, advancing the senior to third. She would then score on a wild pitch to tie the game with nobody out. Two walks, a fielder's choice and a passed ball gave Saint Anselm runners on second and third with one out, but hurler Sarah Appold recorded a strikeout to end the inning.
After working out of the top of the seventh, Saint Anselm would have bases loaded with one out, but a tricky flare caught by the shortstop caught Paitchel a bit far off the base as SVSU shut down the threat.
Entering the eighth, both teams were awarded a runner placed on second base in an attempt to break a tie in a tournament setting, and Trask completely shut it down with three straight backwards K's to keep SVSU's Weeks from reaching home.
Turner was the Hawks' placed runner but LeClair and Hunt couldn't move her over. In her first action of the day, Criscione popped a flare behind first base that found the outfield, scoring Turner and clinching the double-header sweep.
For the day, Cormier tallied five strikeouts and no walks with one earned run. Trask improved to 3-0 with the second-game victory, tallying nine strikeouts with just two earned runs.
Saint Anselm will return for day four of the PFX Athletics Spring Games Friday with a pair of new opponents. The Hawks will open the day against Ashland University at 9 a.m., then turn around and play Gannon University in an 11 a.m. start. Both contests will be at the Hancock Softball Complex in Clermont.
The Spring Games, which run seven days a week for five straight weeks, are the dream of Dr. Dot Richardson, an Olympic gold medalist for fastpitch softball and native of Orlando. This year's games feature 310 teams from across the nation.