PREVIEW: Winner's bracket matchup with Saint Leo up next for softball

PREVIEW: Winner's bracket matchup with Saint Leo up next for softball

SALEM, Va. – After walking off with a 2-1 victory in its debut at the 2018 NCAA Division II Softball Championship on Thursday, the Saint Anselm College softball team faces No. 25 Saint Leo University in the winner's bracket on Friday, May 25 at 1:30 p.m. at James I. Moyer Sports Complex.

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The second-seeded Hawks (42-10-1) and sixth-seeded Lions (38-16) were both victorious on the tournament's first day that saw all four games decided by a single run. Despite being no-hit into the sixth inning, Saint Anselm battled its way to a 2-1 (9 inn.) victory over seventh-seeded and eighth-ranked Southern Arkansas, while Saint Leo edged third-seeded Chico State, 3-2, in the final game of the night.

The matchup of first-time Division II College World Series squads is the second game on Friday and follows another winner's bracket game between eighth-seeded Southern Indiana and fourth-seeded Angelo State at 11 a.m. The day finishes with elimination games between top-seeded North Georgia and fifth-seeded Westchester (4 p.m.) and third-seeded Chico State and seventh-seeded Southern Arkansas (6:30 p.m.).

Fans making the trip to the James I. Moyer Sports Complex in Salem can purchase tickets at the complex. Individual day tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for seniors, students and youth. All-session tickets are available for $35 for adults and $20 for seniors, students and youth.

HOW THEY GOT HERE – SAINT ANSELM: First Team All-America Victoria Taylor held Saint Anselm hitless through five-and-a-third innings, but sophomore Morgan Perry kept Saint Anselm in the game as her team rallied for the 2-1 walk-off victory on Thursday. The victory gave the Hawks a 5-0 record in games decided by two runs or fewer in the NCAA Tournament among their six games since the start of the East Regional.

Taylor and the Lady Muleriders led 1-0 until sophomore Erin Thompson blasted her first home run of the season to right field with one away in the sixth to tie it up. The score remained locked at 1-1 until the bottom of the ninth when sophomore Madison Borrelli came up with runners on first and second and two outs. Borrelli hit a grounder to the left side that got by both the shortstop and the charging left fielder to score junior Jordan O'Connor from second for the game-winning run.

Perry won her fifth-straight start since the start of regionals, going a career-high nine innings, holding a potent offense to one run on six hits with five walks and six strikeouts to run her record to 24-4 this season. Three of the walks came to Division II's all-time home run leader Brooke Goad.

HOW THEY GOT HERE – SAINT LEO: Like Saint Anselm, Saint Leo posted a one-run victory in its first appearance at the NCAA Division II Softball Championship on Thursday, edging Chico State, 3-2. After trailing 1-0 after an inning, the Lions scored three-straight runs, two in the decisive fifth inning, and held on in the final innings to advance to the winner's bracket.

Alison Mitts earned the win in relief of Auria Mounts, allowing one run on two hits in four innings with four strikeouts to improve to 15-8 on the season. Offensively, the Lions got RBI singles from Kacie Kelly and Ashley Morris to break a 1-1 tie in the fifth inning and, despite a solo home run that cut Saint Leo's lead to one in the bottom of the fifth, the Lions held on to secure the win.

The South Region champions are the first team from the Sunshine State Conference to advance to the NCAA Division II Softball Championship since Barry in 2009. As the third seed in the South Regional, Saint Leo won three games by a combined five runs in the regional round and won a decisive third game against fourth seed Alabama-Huntsville in the Super Regional to advance to Salem.


'MO'WING THEM DOWN: Since the start of regionals, sophomore Morgan Perry has won all five of her starts, going 5-0 with a 0.90 ERA while holding opponents to a .158 average. In 39.0 innings of work, Perry has allowed just six runs (five earned) on 22 hits with eight walks and 43 strikeouts. She also earned her first-career save in the first game of the East 2 Regional against Merrimack.

STANDOUT SOPHOMORE: Perry has put together one of the top pitching seasons in program history in her second season on the Hilltop. With her 24-4 record this season, the sophomore has set a new school record for victories in a season and she also ranks in the top five in the single-season record book in appearances (second, 31), strikeouts (third, 175), opponent batting average (fourth, .204), shutouts (fourth, 8) and innings pitched (fifth, 168.2). Through just two collegiate seasons, Perry already ranks sixth all-time at Saint Anselm in strikeouts (225) and eighth in wins (29).

FREE SOFTBALL: Saint Anselm has won all three of its extra-inning games this season after the win over Southern Arkansas yesterday. The nine-inning affair marked the longest game inning-wise of the season for the Hawks, who posted eight-inning victories over Tiffin (W, 7-4 on Mar. 10) and Saint Michael's (W, 5-4 on Apr. 18) earlier this season.

FINE MARGINS: Five of Saint Anselm's six victories in the NCAA Tournament this season have come by either one or two runs and the six wins have come by a total of 12 runs. After yesterday's one-run victory, the Hawks are 9-3 in one-run games this season and 17-4 in games decided by two runs or fewer.

A LONG TIME COMING: Sophomore Erin Thompson saved her first home run of the season until her team really needed it, blasting a solo shot over the right-field fence in the sixth inning of a 1-0 game with the Hawks being no-hit at the time. The long ball was the first in 67 games and 215 at-bats for the sophomore, who was an NFCA and D2CCA First Team All-East Region and First Team All-NE10 selection this season. The home run was Thompson's 59th of the season tying her with Lisa Petell '99 for second place on the Hawks' single-season leaderboard.

LONG BALL FACTS: Saint Anselm is unbeaten (12-0-1) this season in the 13 games in which the Hawks have hit at least one home run. The Hawks have just one game with multiple home runs this season (W, 5-4 vs. Merrimack on Apr. 2) after Thompson hit her team's 15th long ball of the season in her team's 53rd game of 2018.

FLAWLESS FIELDING: The Hawks did not commit an error in Thursday's win over Southern Arkansas as Saint Anselm improved to 17-1 in games in which they have not committed a miscue defensively this season.

FINDING A WAY TO WIN PART 1: Thursday's victory over Southern Arkansas marked just the third time this season Saint Anselm has won a game in which it has been outhit by their opponent (3-9-1). Conversely, the Hawks are 38-0 when outhitting their opposition.

FINDING A WAY TO WIN PART 2: Yesterday's win also marked the third time Saint Anselm has won a game when scoring just two runs this season and the team is 3-1 when putting exactly two runs on the board. The Hawks have yet to win a 1-0 game this season, meaning two runs is the fewest number of runs the team has scored in a victory in 2018.

AND THEN THERE WERE TWO: With their wins on Thursday, Saint Anselm and Angelo State are the lone remaining teams in the field of eight who have yet to lose in the NCAA Tournament with perfect 6-0 records.

AGAINST THE SUNSHINE STATE: Friday's game against Saint Leo is Saint Anselm's second game against a team from Florida this season. The Hawks were edged 2-1 by Nova Southeastern on Mar. 2 on the first day of the team's 14-game trip to the Sunshine State.

THE ELITE…TWO?: Across all of Saint Anselm's varsity sports, the College has sent only two teams to the Elite Eight from a field of 64 teams. The last team to qualify was the 1999-00 men's basketball team that finished 23-9 after a trip to Louisville, Ky. to take on Metropolitan State. In 2017-18, the Hawks have competed in NCAA postseason events in men's basketball, men's and women's cross country, men's golf, field hockey and women's volleyball.

FLYING HIGH: Since starting the season 13-7-1, the Hawks are 29-3 in their last 32 games dating back to Mar. 25. Saint Anselm has won 19 of its last 20 games since Apr. 11, including a school-record 13-game winning streak from Apr. 11-28 that was snapped in the semifinals of the Northeast-10 Conference Softball Championship in a 2-1 loss to Pace in Garden City, N.Y.

IN THE POLLS: Saint Anselm's 13-game winning streak helped propel the Hawks into the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division II Top 25 Coaches Poll for the first time in program history at No. 24 in the polls released on Apr. 22 and Apr. 29.

RECORD PLAYERS: The Hawks student-athletes have helped the team set several team records in 2018, including games played (53), most at-bats (1,457), most runs scored (264), most hits (455), doubles (79), runs batted in (228), total bases (603), base on balls (159), times hit by pitch (29), stolen bases (86), saves (6), innings pitched (356), putouts (1,068), assists (499) and wins (42), while tying the team record for shutouts (12).

TOUGH TO BEAT TWICE: The Hawks have lost back-to-back games just once this season, falling 7-4 to Kentucky Wesleyan and 2-1 to Nova Southeastern on Mar. 2 on the team's first day at the PFX Spring Games in Clermont, Fla.

POSTSEASON AWARDS: Saint Anselm had a school-record eight All-NE10 selections this season, led by First Team honorees senior outfielder Amanda Bickford, senior catcher Megan Murrell and sophomore designated player Erin Thompson. Sophomore outfielder Maggie Murphy, sophomore pitcher Morgan Perry and freshman pitcher Courtney Fisher were named to the Second Team, while junior shortshop Jordan O'Connor and sophomore outfielder Shannon Colson earned spots on the Third Team.

Bickford, Murrell and Thompson all gathered All-East Region accolades from both the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) and the Division II Conference Commissioners Association. All three were first-team picks by the NFCA, while Bickford and Thompson landed spots on the D2CCA All-East Region First Team. Perry was named to the D2CCA Second Team.

HITTING STRIDE: Senior Amanda Bickford is Saint Anselm's all-time leader in career hits with 229 and is a career .387 hitter. Her 80 hits this season are a single-season school record and rank 10th in Division II. Earlier this season, Bickford had a 19-game hitting streak from Mar. 7 – Apr. 9 and is currently on a team-high eight-game hitting streak. She is on pace to become the eighth Hawk to bat over .400 in a season (min. 75 at-bats).

RBI MACHINE: Senior Megan Murrell holds the school record for career RBI with 104 and her 49 runs batted in this season is the second-highest single-season total in program history (Amy Parece, 54, 1999).

PRESEASON POLL: Saint Anselm was picked third, behind Merrimack and Southern New Hampshire, in the Northeast Division in the Northeast-10 Conference Preseason Coaches Poll. The Hawks won the divisional crown with a 19-2 record in divisional games, finishing five games ahead of crosstown-rival Southern New Hampshire, as part of a 23-3-1 showing in NE10 play.

NCAA TOURNAMENT HISTORY: In its third appearance in the NCAA Tournament, Saint Anselm holds an 8-4 (.667) all-time record in the national tournament. After going 1-2 in the regionals in both 2002 and 2015, the Hawks ran through the East Regional with a 5-0 record and are now 6-0 in the tournament this season while making their first appearance in the final eight.

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 122-80-1 (.603). Gagnon has guided the Hawks to a school-record 41 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. Originally from Manchester, N.H., Gagnon played collegiately at Merrimack, where she was a First Team All-NE10 selection in 2009 after a standout high school career at Manchester Memorial.

ALL-TIME VS. SAINT LEO: Saint Anselm and Saint Leo are meeting for the first time in softball this afternoon. Prior to Thursday, the only team the Hawks had faced previously among the other final seven teams was West Chester, who Saint Anselm defeated 4-1 in its season opener on Feb. 16.