PREVIEW: Softball aims to continue unbeaten run in Salem on Saturday

 

SALEM, Va. – The second-seeded Saint Anselm College softball team looks to continue its unbeaten start to the 2018 NCAA Division II Championship when it takes on either Angelo State or Southern Arkansas at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 26 on the third day of the tournament at James I. Moyer Sports Complex.

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Saint Anselm (43-10-1) improved to 2-0 in Salem, and 7-0 in the NCAA Tournament with another one-run, walk-off win on Friday with a 4-3 victory over No. 25-ranked and sixth-seeded Saint Leo. Fourth-seeded and sixth-ranked Angelo State and seventh-seeded and eighth-ranked Southern Arkansas meet in an elimination game at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday with the winner facing the Hawks in a quick turnaround. Whichever team advances to face Saint Anselm will again be faced with elimination for the second time on the morning.

Live video and stat links will be posted to saintanselmhawks.com once they are available following the 8:30 a.m. game between Angelo State and Southern Arkansas.

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: Saint Anselm has posted back-to-back walk-off victories and is one of two teams with 2-0 records in Salem along with eighth-seeded Southern Indiana. On Thursday, the Hawks were held hitless through 5.1 innings by First Team All-American Victoria Taylor of Southern Arkansas but still found a way to win. Sophomore Erin Thompson tied the game with her first home run in 215 at-bats dating back to last season, a solo shot to right with one out in the sixth. Morgan Perry kept a potent Lady Muleriders' offense in check as the score stayed tied at 1-1 all the way until the bottom of the ninth, when Madison Borrelli hit a ground ball that got past both the shortstop and left fielder to allow the winning run to score.

On Friday, the Hawks trailed Saint Leo, 3-2, heading to the bottom of the seventh but scored two runs in the home half of the inning for their second-straight walk-off victory. With Saint Anselm down a run and runners on second and third and one out, senior Megan Murrell tied the game with a line-drive RBI single to left and sophomore Shannon Colson followed with the game-winning squeeze bunt as a sliding Maggie Murphy beat the flip home. Saint Anselm led 2-0 after a two-run second before the Lions put up three in the fifth to take the lead.

SAINT ANSELM NOTES

THE BIGGER THEY COME, THE HARDER THEY FALL: Saint Anselm has posted back-to-back victories over nationally-ranked teams in Salem, defeating No. 8 Southern Arkansas and No. 25 Saint Leo. The Hawks, who received votes in the final National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Top 25 Coaches Poll of the regular season, are 4-1 against top-25 teams in 2018. The four wins over nationally-ranked teams is the most the Hawks have ever had in a single season.

FINE MARGINS: Six of Saint Anselm's seven victories in the NCAA Tournament this season have come by either one or two runs and the seven wins have come by a total of 13 runs. After yesterday's one-run victory, the Hawks are 10-3 in one-run games this season and 18-4 in games decided by two runs or fewer.

'MO'WING THEM DOWN: Since the start of regionals, Perry has won all six of her starts, going 6-0 with a 1.07 ERA while holding opponents to a .175 average. In 46.0 innings of work, Perry has allowed just nine runs (seven earned) on 29 hits with eight walks and 46 strikeouts. She also earned her first-career save in the first game of the East 2 Regional against Merrimack.

SUPER SOPHOMORES PART 1: Perry has put together one of the top pitching seasons in program history in her second season on the Hilltop. With her 25-4 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, 32), strikeouts (second, 178), innings pitched (second, 175.2), opponent batting average (fourth, .206) and shutouts (fourth, 8). Through just two collegiate seasons, Perry already ranks sixth all-time at Saint Anselm in strikeouts (228) and eighth in wins (30).

SUPER SOPHOMORES PART 2: Along with Colson, Murphy, Thompson and Borrelli, Perry is just one of several sophomores to step up for the Hawks this season, especially in the postseason. Colson dropped down the game-winning squeeze bunt in yesterday's walk-off win over Saint Leo to score classmate Murphy and is batting an even .300 (6-for-20) with a team-high seven RBI in the NCAA Tournament. In Thursday's victory over Southern Arkansas, Thompson hit the game-tying home run and Borrelli put the ball in play that resulted in the walk-off double-error.

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 30-3 in their last 33 games dating back to Mar. 25. Saint Anselm has won 20 of its last 21 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 NFCA 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. Saint Anselm received votes in the final NFCA Division II poll of the regular season.

RECORD PLAYERS: The Hawks' student-athletes have helped the team set several team records in 2018, including games played (54), at-bats (1,483), runs scored (268), hits (462), doubles (79), runs batted in (232), total bases (610), walks drawn (165), times hit by pitch (29), stolen bases (87), saves (6), innings pitched (363), putouts (1,089), assists (507) and wins (43), 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.

HITTING HER STRIDE: Senior Amanda Bickford's three-hit game yesterday against Saint Leo was her third multi-hit game of the postseason. A career .390 hitter, Bickford is Saint Anselm's all-time leader in career hits (232) with 47 more than the previous record-holder Nicole Boucher '14 (185). Bickford's 83 hits this season are also a school record, easily surpassing the previous record of Lisa Petell '99 (59). Bickford entered the week ranked 10th in Division II in hits this season and has 27 multi-hit games in 2018, 10 more than any other Hawks (Erin Thompson, Megan Murrell).

RBI MACHINE: Murrell holds the school record for career RBI with 105 after a 50-RBI senior season to-date. Murrell is just the second Hawk to drive in 50 runs in a season in program history, joining record-holder Amy Parece '99 (54).

POSTSEASON AWARDS: Saint Anselm had a school-record eight All-NE10 selections this season, led by three First Team honorees (Bickford, Murrell, Thompson). The Hawks also had three Second Team picks (Murphy, Perry, Courtney Fisher) and a pair of Third Team honorees (O'Connor, Colson).

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.

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 9-4 (.692) 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 7-0 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. SOUTHERN ARKANSAS/ANGELO STATE: Thursday's win over Southern Arkansas was the first-ever meeting between the Hawks and Muleriders. Saint Anselm has never played Angelo State in softball.