MANCHESTER, N.H. – For the first time in program history, the Saint Anselm College softball program advanced to the Northeast-10 Conference Championship finals after defeating the University of New Haven 5-1 in the semifinals of the tournament on Friday afternoon.
The Hawks, who entered the contest ranked 24th in the latest National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division II Top 25 poll, improve to 36-8 overall on the year. Saint Anselm is also ranked second in the latest NCAA Division II East Region rankings after earning the Northeast Division Regular Season Championship and the number one seed in the NE10 tournament.
The Chargers, who were ranked seventh in the latest Regional Rankings, fall to 31-14.
Saint Anselm will face the back-to-back NE10 champions and top-seed from the Southwest Division, Adelphi University, in the title game on Saturday, May 4 at 12 p.m. The Panthers defeated the No. 4-seed Pace University in the second game of the day.
Saint Anselm head coach Jill Gagnon, who is in her sixth season at the helm, tied long-time Head Coach Bill Vermette for the most wins in program history (161).
The Hawks pitching staff also set a single-season record for most strikeouts in a season with 305, eclipsing the previous team record of 298 set in 1997.
Junior Morgan Perry (Bethany, Conn.) went the distance for the 18th time this year to pick up her 21st win, striking out eight batters and allowing just one run on two hits and a pair of walks. She passed Megan Lemire '10 on the all-time lists for complete games (47) and innings pitched (459.1).
Senior Jordan O'Connor (New Fairfield, Conn.) had the hit of the game, driving the ball over the left-center field fence in the sixth inning for a three-run shot. She cracked the program's top-10 list for career runs batted in, matching Julie LeClair '16 for ninth place with 85 to her credit.
The Hawks struck for a pair of unearned runs in the bottom of the first inning, thanks to a pair of errors by New Haven. Junior Shannon Colson (Rochester, N.H.) led off the inning, reaching on a two-base error. Classmate Maggie Murphy (Scarborough, Maine) plated her with a single before advancing to second on a fielding error by the center fielder.
After Chargers starter Mia Iodice got the next two outs, freshman Kylie Fitzpatrick (Danville, N.H.) scored Murphy from second to give Saint Anselm a 2-0 advantage.
Perry retired five of the next six batters, four by way of the strikeout. However, the Chargers cut the lead in half in the top of the third inning with two outs. Catherine Vaughan walked with one away, before stealing second on an attempted hit-and-run that ended with a strikeout. Mya Case followed up with a two-out single to put New Haven on the board.
Both pitchers settled down after that as Iodice shutdown Saint Anselm's bats, retiring 13 in a row after the first inning. Perry put away nine of the next 10 batters she faced through the top of the sixth inning.
However, the Hawks turned a one-run game into a four-run lead in the bottom of the sixth inning. Murphy reached on a fielder's choice, before sophomore Lauren Washburn (Carmichael, Calif.) advanced Murphy to third on a single to left field. O'Connor came up and sent a blast to left field for her first hit of the day to make it 5-1 in favor of the Hawks.
Saint Anselm looked to continue the inning with two outs but Iodice got the swining strikeout to end the frame. Perry got three straight outs, including a game-ending ground out to third to finish off the Chargers.
Iodice suffered the complete game loss for New Haven, allowing five runs, only three of them earned, on six hits. She struck out five batters without issuing a walk.