PREVIEW: No. 20 Saint Anselm, No. 23 LIU Post to battle for NCAA East Region Championship

PREVIEW: No. 20 Saint Anselm, No. 23 LIU Post to battle for NCAA East Region Championship

MANCHESTER, N.H. – For the second consecutive season, the Saint Anselm College softball team will welcome the Pioneers from Long Island University – Post to campus with an NCAA Division II East Region Championship on the line.

Saint Anselm, the top-seeded program and the reigning East Region champions, will battle the second-seeded Pioneers in a three-game slate that begins Thursday, May 16 at the South Athletic Fields at 3 p.m. The winner of the best-of-three series will win the East Region title and earn a trip to the NCAA Division II Softball Championship in Denver, Colo. Beginning on May 23.

The Hawks, ranked 20th in the latest National Fastpitch Coaches Association national poll, hosted one of the two four-team East Region pods last week, coming out on top with a win over Bridgeport and back-to-back shutouts of Southern New Hampshire. LIU Post, the 23rd-ranked program in NCAA Division II by the NFCA, won their four-team pod, taking down the hosts from Wilmington (Del.) and New Haven on two occasions.

As an institution, Saint Anselm is looking for its fourth East Region championship since the spring of 2018. Prior to winning East Region titles in men's and women's basketball this past season, the Hawks softball program won Saint Anselm's first regional championship since men's basketball accomplished the feat in 1999-00.

GAME SCHEDULE

GAME ONE – Saint Anselm 1 vs. LIU Post 5 – Thursday, May 16 – FINAL

GAME TWO – LIU Post (home) vs. Saint Anselm (away) – Friday, May 17 – 2 p.m.

GAME THREE – If Necessary – Friday, May 17 – 4:30 p.m.

TICKETS

Tickets will be sold for each day of the Super Regional at a rate of $5.00 for adults and $2.00 for senior citizens, students and children under 12 years of age. The South Athletic Fields are a pet-free facility – pets, including emotional support animals, are not permitted. Service animals are welcome.

APPAREL

Officially-licensed NCAA championship apparel will be available for purchase at the site of competition for all fans and participants. Cash and credit cards will be accepted at the kiosk.

SCOUTING SAINT ANSELM 

  • Saint Anselm is riding a 15-game winning streak that dates back to Apr. 14. Since the start of April, the Hawks own a dominant 25-1 overall record and on the year, Saint Anselm is 18-1 at home.
  • The Hawks have logged an overall record of 84-21-1 (.797) since the start of the last season to rank eighth in NCAA Division II, winning nearly 80% of the program's games played.
  • Saint Anselm won its first-ever Northeast-10 (NE10) Conference championship by defeating the two-time defending champs from Adelphi, 4-3, in 10 innings. In that contest, Saint Anselm head coach Jill Gagnon became the all-time winningest coach in program history in just her sixth season, passing long-time coach Bill Vermette (1988-97) and now has 162 career victories at the Hilltop.
  • Last year, the Hawks finished as the national runner-up in NCAA Division II, falling to Southern Indiana in a best-of-three championship series. Saint Anselm racked up a 44-13-1 overall record that included seven consecutive victories to begin the NCAA tournament.
  • The Hawks picked up back-to-back shutout victories over Southern New Hampshire last week in the East 1 Region pod and improved to 5-0 against the Penmen in 2019. Saint Anselm set a program record with their 14th shutout of the season, passing last year's team record of 13 games without yielding a run.
  • As a team, Saint Anselm owns a 1.36 earned run average which stands as the second-best mark in program history. The squad has averaged 6.94 strikeouts per game, the most in Hawks history since the 1998 team (7.48), and Saint Anselm pitchers have kept opposing hitters to a .205 batting average, the lowest in single-season team history.
  • With a lead after five complete innings, the Hawks are a perfect 26-0 on the season and are undefeated when scoring four or more runs in a game.
  • Junior pitcher Morgan Perry (Bethany, Conn.) was named Pitcher of the Year by the Division II Conference Commissioner's Association and the NE10. She is currently ranked 12th in the country in earned run average (1.27) and strikeouts (220) – she owns the nation's 19th-best strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.64) and has 25 victories in the circle (ninth-most in NCAA Division II).
  • Sophomore pitcher Courtney Fisher (Taunton, Mass.) has pitched 97 innings to date, posting a perfect 10-0 record across 25 appearances. She has logged a 1.52 earned run average and pitched a seven-inning shutout in her last appearance, picking up a 3-0 victory over Bentley on Apr. 27.
  • Hawks pitchers have combined to fan 331 opposing batters, a single-season team record. Saint Anselm pitchers have also logged seven saves in 2019, the most in team history – the Hawks are led by freshman McKenna Smith (Old Town, Maine) and her six saves, a single-season individual record.
  • Defensively, the Hawks are ranked 16th in NCAA Division II in fielding percentage (0.972), having turned 0.42 double plays per game to rank 27th in the country. Freshman Kylie Fitzpatrick (Danville, N.H.) was named the NE10 Defensive Player of the Year, recording a perfect fielding percentage on 115 fielding chances to date.
  • Junior Shannon Colson (Rochester, N.H.) is one of the top offensive threats for Saint Anselm, leading the Hawks with a .362 batting average with 59 hits in 163 at-bats. She also has racked up 21 stolen bases on 25 attempts and is the program's all-time record holder with 69 career thefts.
  • Colson has struck out only three times in 2019, ranking 10th in NCAA Division II with a strikeout ever 54.3 at-bats. For her career, Colson has fanned only 29 times in 431 at-bats since her freshman campaign in 2017. She also leads the team with 17 multi-hit games in 2019.
  • Junior Maggie Murphy (Scarborough, Maine) is batting .333 to date, picking up 50 hits in 150 at-bats across 47 games. She leads the Hawks with 14 doubles and 17 extra-base hits and has scored a team-leading 39 runs, batting primarily second in the lineup. For her career, she has picked up 49 stolen bases on 54 attempts.
  • Murphy is riding an active five-game hitting streak (.412, 7-for-17) after posting an eight gamer earlier in the season. Sophomore Lauren Washburn (Carmichael, Calif.) and Colson each have logged nine game hitting streaks, the longest by any Hawks student-athlete this season.
  • Washburn, who has 47 hits in 141 at-bats (.333), leads the Hawks with six hits in 10 at-bats with the bases loaded and has eight runs batted in across 13 opportunities with less than two outs with a runner on third. After posting 25 hits and eight runs batted in as a freshman, she has exploded for 47 hits and 31 runs batted in across 45 games played.
  • The team's lone senior, shortstop Jordan O'Connor (New Fairfield, Conn.), has picked up 48 hits in 144 at-bats across 48 games to date. She became the program's all-time leader in career games played earlier in the season (175) and has set career-high marks this season in hits (48), extra-base hits (14), runs batted in (35) and batting average (.333).

PREVIEWING THE PIONEERS

  • LIU Post enters play with a 49-10 overall record in its final season of play and is in search of its first East Region title since the 2014 campaign. The Pioneers matched a program record with 44 regular-season victories, matching the total from the 2013 season, and are only one win shy of tying the 2014 squad for the most wins in team history (50).
  • Head Coach Jamie Apicella, the Coach of the Year in the East Coast Conference (ECC), has guided the Pioneers to the NCAA Tournament for the 19th time in his 21 seasons at the helm.
  • The second-seeded Pioneers are riding a wave of momentum entering play on Thursday, advancing to the Super Regionals for the second-consecutive season thanks to a walk-off grand slam by sophomore Hanna Finkelstein on Saturday. Her dramatic blast to left field against New Haven propelled LIU Post to a 6-3 victory.
  • LIU Post also rallied in its earlier contest against Adelphi, scoring four runs in the final two innings to topple the Pioneers. The squad also finished the regular season with 44 victories and needs only one win to equal the program's all-time mark of 50 set during the 2014 campaign.
  • The Pioneers hosted the ECC championship and fell to the University of Bridgeport twice, losing each game via shutout. In the other two contests, LIU Post downed the fourth-seeded NYIT side and the second-seeded Saint Thomas Aquinas program.
  • Six student-athletes are batting over .300 for the Pioneers with three of those hitting north of .350. As a team, LIU Post has rapped 65 home runs to average 1.10 per contest, the 14th-best rate in the country.
  • LIU Post is led by senior catcher Julia Seader, the all-time hits leader (295) for the Pioneers. Seader was named the D2CCA East Region Player of the Year and the ECC Player of the Year after earning First Team All-Conference from the league. She enters play with a .443 batting average and leads NCAA Division II with 20 home runs.
  • On Tuesday, Seader was named a finalist for the Schutt Sports/NFCA National Player on the Year Award, becoming the first student-athlete in team history to be a finalist for the prestigious honor. During the NCAA tournament, she has posted a .571 batting average with two home runs and three runs batted in.
  • Seader is batting .500 (18-for-36) in the sixth and seventh innings of close games, tallying five late-inning home runs.
  • Senior pitcher Hannah Olshevski was named the ECC Pitcher of the Year following the regular season. She ranks 12th in NCAA Division II with 24 victories in the circle and allows only 1.02 walks per seven innings, the 30th-best figure in the nation. Her 1.77 earned run average is tops among ECC pitchers.
  • Junior outfielder Abbey Fortin, also a home run threat, is eighth among active NCAA Division II student-athletes with 45 career long balls. In 2019, Fortin has slugged 13 home runs in 178 at-bats and is joined by Finkelstein with double-digit home runs (10).

ALL-TIME vs. LIU POST

  • Saint Anselm holds a 4-2 edge over the Pioneers in the all-time series that dates back to May 9, 2002. Three of the games have been played at the NCAA East Regional with the Hawks holding a 3-0 edge all-time.
  • Last season, the Hawks turned away LIU Post in two games at the Super Regionals, hosted by Saint Anselm. The hosts took game one, 3-1, and later posted a 5-0 shutout against the Pioneers to lock up the best-of-three series.
  • The LIU Post offense generated only seven hits against Saint Anselm in the regionals last year, led by two from Breanna Klaiber. Saint Anselm slugged 19 total hits and was led by Colson and her three runs batted in.
  • In the first-ever meeting between both teams in the NCAA tournament, Sara Swett '02 and Katelyn McGrath '05 each notched three hits in a 7-1 win over then-C.W. Post on May 9, 2002. Andrea Messina '03 pitched a complete game five-hitter, fanning six batters in the Hawks first-ever NCAA postseason victory.