MANCHESTER, N.H. – In its first appearance in the Super Regionals of the NCAA Division II Softball Championship, the Saint Anselm College softball team will host the Pioneers of LIU Post on Thursday and Friday, May 17-18.
The best-of-three Super Regional begins on Thursday with game one at 3 p.m. followed by game two at 1 p.m. the next day. If the teams split the first two games, the decisive game is set for 3:30 p.m. on Friday. The winner of the series will represent the East Region at the Division II College World Series in Salem, Virginia on May 24-28.
Tickets for the Super Regional will be available at the South Athletic Fields on both days. Prices are $5 for adults and $2 for seniors, students and children (12 and under). Tickets are good for one day only but cover all games for that day.
HOW THEY GOT HERE – SAINT ANSELM: As the No. 2 seed in the East Regional, Saint Anselm went 3-0 in last week's East 2 Regional on its home diamond to advance to the Super Regional, winning the three games by a combined four runs. All three games came against Northeast-10 Conference Northeast Divisional foes.
In the team's opener on Thursday, senior Megan Murrell provided the go-ahead RBI single in the bottom of the fifth and sophomore Morgan Perry struck out all six batters she faced for her first-career save in a 3-2 win over No. 7 seed Merrimack. The next day, Perry struck out 10 and seven Hawks had one hit apiece, including Maggie Murphy's first home run of the season, as Saint Anselm topped No. 3 seed Southern New Hampshire, 3-1, to book its spot in the final of the four-team pod.
On Friday, the Hawks punched their ticket to the program's first Super Regional by rallying from 3-0 down to defeat Merrimack for a second time, 4-3. After the Warriors scored three runs in the first inning, Perry did not allow a run over the final six to earn her school-record 21st victory of the season and senior Amanda Bickford provided the go-ahead, two-run double in a three-run fourth.
HOW THEY GOT HERE – LIU POST: Appearing in the NCAA Tournament for the 20th time in the last 22 seasons, LIU Post won the East 1 Regional at Adelphi last week with a 3-0 record. Two of the Pioneers' three wins came via the run rule as LIU Post outscored its opponents 18-2 on the final two days of the tournament.
The Pioneers started their showing in Garden City, N.Y. with a 3-1 win over No. 5 seed Le Moyne on Thursday behind a complete-game, three-hit effort from sophomore Katie Humhej. LIU Post fell behind 1-0 in the third before scoring twice in the fourth and once in the fifth to claim the victory.
On day two, LIU Post cruised past No. 8 seed Caldwell, 10-2, with three multi-run innings to end the game after five frames. The offensive outburst was led by sophomore Abbey Fortin, who was 3-for-3 with three runs and three RBI as the top-four Pioneer hitters went 6-for-8 with eight runs and five RBI.
Needing just one win over top-seeded Adelphi on Saturday to advance, LIU Post got two home runs from Fortin and Humhej's eighth shutout of the season to down the Panthers, 8-0 in six innings, to avoid a deciding game. Fortin's grand slam in the second got the Pioneers out to a 5-0 lead and Humhej took care of the rest, allowing just two hits in the victory.
SCOUTING SAINT ANSELM
- In 2018, Saint Anselm has set single-season team records in runs (254), hits (433), doubles (77), RBI (219), walks (152) and stolen bases (86).
- Since starting the season 9-6, the Hawks have gone 30-4-1 since a Mar. 7 defeat to Minnesota Duluth in Claremont, Fla. Saint Anselm is 16-1 over its last 17 games dating back to Apr. 9 (L, 2-1 at No. 23 SNHU).
- Saint Anselm has lost back-to-back games just once this season, falling 7-4 to Kentucky Wesleyan and 2-1 to Nova Southeastern back on Mar. 2 on the first day of the team's trip to Clermont, Fla. The Hawks won a program-record 13-straight games from Apr. 11 – 28 and gathered their first-ever national ranking late in the season, coming in at No. 24 in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) rankings released on Apr. 22 and Apr. 29.
- Perry appeared in all three of Saint Anselm's games at the regional last week, going 2-0 with a save and a 1.31 ERA. In 16.0 innings, Perry allowed just nine hits and three walks with 23 strikeouts.
- Bickford is currently riding a team-high six-game hitting streak, going 10-for-23 (.435) with five doubles and four runs since Apr. 28. Saint Anselm's all-time leader in career hits (226) hit .440 over a 19-game hitting streak from Mar. 7 – Apr. 9 earlier this season.
- Murrell is Saint Anselm's all-time leader in career RBI (100), setting the record during a doubleheader at Stonehill on Apr. 28. Nearly half (46) of her career RBI have come this season - her 46 RBI this season is the second-highest single-season total by a Hawk.
- Although she appeared just once in the regional, freshman Courtney Fisher is 7-0 with two saves and a 0.57 ERA in her last 10 appearances dating back to Apr. 14. In 49.1 innings over that span, Fisher has held opponents to a .191 batting average.
- Saint Anselm is 15-4 in games decided by two runs or fewer this season after the team's three narrow wins at the regional last week.
SCOUTING LIU POST
- LIU Post went 19-3 at home this season, compared to 19-14 in games away from Brookville, N.Y.
- The Pioneers have won 13 of their last 14 games going back to game two of a doubleheader at Mercy on Apr. 22.
- LIU Post has five shutouts during that span and the team's 12 shutouts this season rank 25th in Division II. Humhej's seven shutouts rank 24th in the country, while Hannah Olshevski has five of her own.
- Fortin, the ECC's Player of the Year and the ECC Tournament's Most Outstanding Player, ranks in the top-10 nationally in hits (ninth, 80), home runs (seventh, 18) and total bases (sixth, 157), while sitting 11th in RBI (64).
- Fortin was one of three all-region selections for LIU Post, earning first-team honors from the NFCA and D2CCA. Junior catcher Julia Seader was a second-team choice by both organizations, while Humhej earned second-team D2CCA honors.
- Now in his 20th season as the head coach at LIU Post, Jamie Apicella has a career record of 774-324-2 (.705), making him one of the winningest Division II coaches in the country. Entering this season, he ranked 15th among active DII coaches in winning percentage (.706) and 18th in victories (737).
- LIU Post has won at least 30 games in 22 of the last 23 seasons with last season's 27-26 mark being the lone exception. Over that span, the Pioneers have posted eight seasons with at least 40 victories.
- After the two lopsided wins in the regional, LIU Post is 15-3 this season in games decided by at least five runs. The Pioneers are 13-10 in games decided by two runs or fewer.
NCAA TOURNAMENT HISTORY: After sweeping its way through the NCAA East 2 Regional, Saint Anselm owns a 5-4 all-time record in three appearances in the national tournament. This year marked the first time the Hawks have won multiple games in the NCAA East Regional after going 1-2 in both 2002 and 2015. Six of Saint Anselm's nine games in the NCAA Tournament have come in Manchester and the Hawks are 4-2 in those games (3-0 in 2018 at home, 1-2 in 2015 at SNHU).
THE GAGNON FILE: This season's NE10 Coach of the Year, Jill Gagnon is in her fifth season as the head coach at Saint Anselm and has a career record of 119-80-1 (.598) through 200 games. Gagnon has guided the Hawks to a school-record 39 victories, their first-ever national ranking and a Northeast Division regular-season title on her way to earning her first NE10 Coach of the Year honor. She came to the Hilltop after three seasons as the pitching coach at UMass Boston (2010-12) and, following one season as an assistant, has led the Hawks to two of the program's three NCAA Tournament appearances since starting as head coach in 2014.
ALL-TIME VS. LIU POST: Saint Anselm and LIU Post have met just twice previously with both teams owning one head-to-head win. The Hawks and Pioneers first met in Saint Anselm's first-ever game at the NCAA East Regional on May 9, 2002 - a 7-1 win for the Hawks. The Pioneers won the most recent meeting, 6-2 in eight innings, in Saint Anselm's 2017 season opener in Clermont, Fla.