MANCHESTER, N.H. – The nationally-ranked and top-seeded Saint Anselm College softball team defeated the eighth-seed from the University of Bridgeport, 3-1, to open the NCAA East 1 Regional Tournament on Thursday afternoon at South Athletic Fields.
The Hawks, who entered the game ranked No. 20 in the latest National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division II Top 25 poll, have won 13 games in a row while improving to 38-8 on the year. Saint Anselm will face cross-town rival and fifth-seeded Southern New Hampshire University at 10 a.m. on Friday afternoon in game three of the double-elimination tournament. The Hawks will be the visiting team against Penmen, who defeated the fourth-seed from Georgian Court University in Thursday's second game by a score of 4-2.
The Purple Knights, who won their first-ever East Coast Conference Championship last weekend, fall to 33-15 and will play the Lions at 12:30 in the fourth game of the tournament. Georgian Court will be the home team in the contest.
Senior Jordan O'Connor (New Fairfield, Conn.) appeared in her 173rd career game on the Hilltop, matching the team's all-time record set by Allison Pearson '03.
Saint Anselm threatened in the second inning with a leadoff double by junior Erin Thompson (Newton, N.H.), who later moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Sophomore Kat Stackrow (Wynantskill, N.Y.) singled and later stole second to place runners in scoring position with just one away. However, Purple Knights pitcher Amanda Staheli got out of the jam with a fly out and ground out to end the inning.
Bridgeport used the momentum to take a 1-0 lead in the top of the third. After sophomore Morgan Perry (Bethany, Conn.) got the first two batters out, Allison Luzzi lifted a high fly ball that was just inside the left field foul pole to give the Purple Knights a one-run advantage.
The Hawks answered quickly, tying the contest at one in the home half of the inning. Junior Shannon Colson (Rochester, N.H.) singled to the pitcher and kept running to third following a two-base throwing error by the Bridgeport pitcher. Classmate Maggie Murphy (Scarborough, Maine) flew out to left field and Colson scored on an obstruction play at home. Saint Anselm put two more runners on in the inning but stranded them at first and second.
After a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the fourth by Perry, the Hawks scored twice to take a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the stanza. Stackrow reached on a fielding error to start the inning. After a ground out, freshman Bailey Cain (Wellington, Fla.) singled off of the third base bag to move Stackrow up. Colson grounded out to second, moving both runners into scoring position before Murphy hit a two-out, two-run double to right-center field to score Cain and Stackrow.
The Purple Knights got a runner to second in the fifth and a pair of runners on in the sixth but Perry was able to get out of both innings unscathed. Perry retired Bridgeport in order in the seventh for her 23rd win of the year and 20th complete game, finishing the game with eight strikeouts, three hits, and just one walk. Staheli took the loss in the circle for Bridgeport and allowed three runs, just two earned on eight hits and a walk. She struck out one batter.