PREVIEW: No. 24 softball meets Pace in NE10 Championship semifinals

 

MANCHESTER, N.H. – Following a record-setting regular season, the No. 24-ranked Saint Anselm College softball team begins its showing at the Northeast-10 Conference Championship in the semifinals on Friday, May 4 when the Hawks take on Pace University.

Saint Anselm secured the Northeast Division's regular-season crown with a 19-2 mark in divisional play as part of a 36-9-1 regular season that set the program record for wins. As the division's top seed, the Hawks received a double by and will face Pace on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. in the semifinals at Adelphi University's Janet L. Ficke Field. The Setters are seeded No. 2 out of the Southwest Division.

Friday's semifinal pits a pair of teams riding double-digit wins streaks against each other. Saint Anselm has won a school-record 13-straight games, tied for the third-longest active streak in Division II, while Pace has won 10 games in a row after downing Merrimack, 3-1, in Thursday's first quarterfinal.

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LAST TIME OUT: Saint Anselm extended its program-record winning streak to 13 games by closing the regular season with a sweep of Stonehill on the road on Apr. 28. During the sweep, senior Megan Murrell became the program's all-time leader in career RBI with the 97th of her career in game one and added a three-run home run in game two to bring her total to an even 100.

In the opener, eight of Saint Anselm's nine starters had at least one hit and five had at least two as the Hawks put 16 hits on the board. Senior Amanda Bickford and sophomores Erin Thompson and Shannon Colson each had three hits and scored twice, while Thompson swiped a program-record-tying four bases. After being named the NE10 Pitcher of the Week earlier in the week, freshman Courtney Fisher allowed an unearned run in the top of the first but no runs after that to improve to 14-5.

Murrell's eighth home run of the season, a three-run shot, highlighted a four-run first inning in game two and sophomore Morgan Perry threw her seventh shutout of the season with a two-hitter. Perry struck out six with just one walk to win her 19th game of the season, leaving her one shy of Lisa Petell's program record. Saint Anselm had four extra-base hits in the first inning, including Murrell's three-run home run.

SCOUTING SAINT ANSELM

  • Saint Anselm has been ranked No. 24 in the country in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division II Top 25 Coaches Poll in each of the last two weeks - the Hawks had never been ranked in the poll prior to two weeks ago.
  • Led by NE10 Coach of the Year Jill Gagnon, the Hawks had eight student-athletes named to the NE10 All-Conference Teams. The eight selections are the most in a season in program history.
  • Bickford was a First Team All-NE10 selection for the second-straight season and owns program records for hits in a career (220) and in a season (71, 2018).
  • Murrell received First Team All-NE10 honors this spring and leads the NE10 with 45 RBI, which is the second-highest single-season total all-time at Saint Anselm. Murrell is also the program's leader in career RBI with 100.
  • Thompson, also a First Team All-NE10 choice, is batting .404 in NE10 games this season with 26 runs scored in 27 conference games.
  • Sophomore Maggie Murphy joined Perry and Fisher on the All-NE10 Second Team, while junior shortstop Jordan O'Connor and Colson were Third Team picks. Colson's 30 stolen bases this season lead the NE10 and are one shy of the program record (Nicole Boucher 31 - 2014).
  • Saint Anselm boasts two of the NE10's top pitchers in Perry and Fisher, both Second Team All-NE10 selections. Both pitchers rank in the conference's top six in wins and ERA, while Perry's 19 victories are one shy of matching the program record (Lisa Petell - 20-4, 1999).
  • In the Hawks' 13-game winning streak, Fisher is 6-0 with two saves and a 0.51 ERA over 41.1 innings spanning eight appearances.
  • Saint Anselm has won 24 of its last 26 games starting with a sweep of Pace on Mar. 25 in Pleasantville, N.Y. The Hawks have lost back-to-back games just once this season, falling to both Kentucky Wesleyan and Nova Southeastern on Mar. 2 in Clermont, Fla.

SCOUTING PACE

  • Pace has won 10-straight games with its last loss coming to Dominican (N.Y.) by a 7-6 score in the first game of a doubleheader on Apr. 20. The Setters have won their last six games against NE10 opponents since being swept by Adelphi on Apr. 17.
  • The Setters shared the Southwest Division regular-season title with Adelphi with matching 14-4 records within the division. The Panthers claimed the division's top seed for the postseason tournament by winning two of the three head-to-head meetings.
  • Freshman Niyah Brown was named the NE10 Rookie of the Year and was selected to the All-NE10 Second Team while leading the Setters and ranking seventh in the NE10 with a .376 batting average. She also ranks ninth in the conference in RBI (32) and had an 18-game hitting streak from Mar. 30 – Apr. 18.
  • Sophomore Emma Bernet leads the conference with a 1.11 ERA this season. Bernet improved to 14-5 by holding Merrimack to one run in her 16th complete game of the spring in the quarterfinals. She was a First Team All-NE10 selection.
  • Senior outfielder Larissa Labs joined Brown on the All-NE10 Second Team and she leads the Setters in hits (54), doubles (9) and triples (6), while ranking second in batting average (.372) and RBI (20). Senior Jordan Chillinski was a Third Team All-NE10 choice and is batting .343 this spring.
  • Pace was ranked No. 9 in this week's NCAA East Regional Rankings, leaving them on the outside looking in as eight teams will qualify for the regional.
  • The quarterfinal win over Merrimack brought Pace's record in the NE10 Championship to 10-11 all-time. The Setters won the tournament title in 2016 and were the runners-up in 2003.
  • On Apr. 12, Claudia Stabile posted her 700th career victory as Pace's head coach. Now in her 37th season, Stabile is the only head coach in program history and became the 22nd active head coach in all of Division II to join the "700 Club."

NE10 POSTSEASON ALL-TIME: Saint Anselm is 15-20 all-time in 14 appearances in the Northeast-10 Conference Championship and is in the tournament field for the fifth time in the last six seasons. As the No. 2 seed in the Northeast Division last season, the Hawks received a first-round bye before falling, 13-5, to Le Moyne, the No. 3 seed from the Southwest Division, on Championship Weekend. Saint Anselm won first-round games in both 2014 and 2015 and is in search of its first-ever appearance in the finals.

THE GAGNON FILE: Head coach Jill Gagnon was named the NE10 Coach of the Year for the first time in her fifth season as head coach on the Hilltop after leading the Hawks to a school-record 36 wins through the regular season. Gagnon won her 100th game at Saint Anselm earlier this season courtesy of a 5-4 victory over her alma mater, Merrimack, on Apr. 2 and her career record currently sits at 116-79-1 (.594).

ALL-TIME vs. PACE: Saint Anselm leads the all-time series with Pace by a 19-17 margin after the Mar. 25 sweep broke a 17-17 tie in the series. The two teams have met three times previously in the NE10 Championship with the Hawks winning two of the three. All three postseason meetings have been decided by one run. The Setters won the most recent postseason matchup, 3-2, in the second round in 2015 after the Hawks posted a 2-1 quarterfinal win in 2014 and a 1-0 victory back in 2002 in the first round.