Softball forces decisive third game, falls to LIU Post in East Region final

Softball forces decisive third game, falls to LIU Post in East Region final

MANCHESTER, N.H. – Battling in a three-game series for a chance to win the 2019 NCAA Division II East Region Softball Championship, Saint Anselm College won the first of two games on Friday to force a decisive game three, but the Pioneers from LIU Post eked out a 2-1 victory in eight innings.

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Saint Anselm, the reigning East Region champions entering the day, see their season come to a close with a 41-10 overall record. LIU Post, competing in its final season, improves to 51-11 and will advance to the NCAA Division II National Championship, representing the East Region in Denver, Colo. later in the month.

The Hawks won their first-ever Northeast-10 Conference title earlier in the season, defeating Adelphi by a 4-3 margin in extra innings. Saint Anselm, earning the top seed in the East Region, then cruised through the opening round of regional play, defeating Bridgeport by a 3-1 margin before blanking Southern New Hampshire in back-to-back games, 5-0 and 4-0, to earn a spot in the Super Regionals.

Saint Anselm, who swept LIU Post in last season's Super Regionals, logged the second-most victories in team history (41) and set team records with 14 shutouts and 351 strikeouts by Hawks pitchers. At one point during the season, the Hawks won 15 consecutive games and were winners of 25-of-26 games from Apr. 3 through May 11.

Senior Jordan O'Connor (New Fairfield, Conn.), a steward of the team's recent success, is the lone senior to graduate – she finishes with 175 career games played, a program record. She also set the team record during Friday's doubleheader, recording 357 career fielding assists. Across 51 games as a senior, O'Connor batted a career-high .323, driving in a team-leading 35 runs.

GAME ONE – Saint Anselm 9, LIU Post 6 (Box Score)

Saint Anselm trailed by a 1-0 margin through three complete innings as catcher Julia Seader had an RBI single to left field, putting the designated host team, LIU Post, up by a 1-0 margin.

The Hawks poured it on in the top of the fourth inning, scoring five runs to capture a commanding 5-1 lead, all with two outs. With the bases loaded, freshman Bailey Cain (Wellington, Fla.) was hit by a pitch to drive in the game-tying run. Juniors Shannon Colson (Rochester, N.H.) and Maggie Murphy (Scarborough, Maine) each lined two-RBI singles to right field, creating the lead.

Freshman Kylie Fitzpatrick (Danville, N.H.) lined a single to left field in the top of the fifth, driving home sophomore Lauren Washburn (Carmichael, Calif.) with two outs to up the lead to 6-1. 

After another RBI for Seeder in the bottom of the fifth inning, the Hawks posted three additional runs in the top of the sixth inning. Murphy drove in Cain, who led off the inning with a single, with an RBI single before a two-run double by junior Erin Thompson (Newton, N.H.), once again with two outs, to create a 9-2 lead for the Hawks.

A three-run home run by Ashley Melendez and an RBI triple by Seeder fueled a four-run inning for LIU Post in the bottom of the sixth, but the Hawks were able to capture the three-run victory as freshman McKenna Smith (Old Town, Maine) fanned three batters in one-and-two-thirds innings.

Hawks junior Morgan Perry (Bethany, Conn.) improved to 26-6 on the season, allowing five earned runs across five-and-a-third innings. She finished her third season on the Hilltop with a 26-6 win-loss record, throwing 206-and-two-thirds innings while fanning 226 batters, a single season team record, and ranking among the national leaders in several statistics.

Smith gave up an earned run, walking three batters, but her three strikeouts kept a threatening LIU Post lineup at bay in the waning innings of the game.

Hannah Olshevski drew the loss, only her sixth losing decision of the season for LIU Post, giving up seven earned runs while walking three batters. Hanna Finkelstein made only her fifth pitching appearance of the season for the Pioneers, throwing two innings without allowing an earned run.

GAME TWO – LIU Post 2, Saint Anselm 1 – 8 Innings (Box Score)

Making her first postseason appearance of the 2019 season, sophomore pitcher Courtney Fisher (Taunton, Mass.) danced around trouble in the top of the first inning, leaving two LIU Post runners stranded with the hot-hitting Melendez striking out swinging to cap the frame.

Neither team threatened to score until the bottom of the fifth inning. Sophomore Kat Stackrow (Wynantskill, N.Y.) singled to shortstop, beating out the throw at first base to lead off the inning. After a sacrifice bunt by Fitzpatrick, Cain singled to right-center field with two outs, placing Saint Anselm ahead by a 1-0 margin.

In the top of the sixth inning, Seader continued to punish Saint Anselm pitching, singling to right field. After a fielder's choice by Finkelstein and a sacrifice bunt, Melendez singled through the right side to plate the game-tying run.

After a scoreless seventh inning, Seader slammed a towering home run to dead center field, putting her team ahead by a 2-1 margin. With two runners reaching later in the inning, Smith came on in relief to retire three consecutive batters.

Saint Anselm had two hard-hit balls find the LIU Post defense before Washburn singled to center field, placing the winning run at the plate. A nice play by the Pioneers pitcher, Katie Humhej, retired the Hawks and sent LIU Post to its first East Region title in five years.

Humhej earned the win, improving to 26-5 overall on the season with only one earned run allowed in eight innings. Fisher drew the loss, allowing only two earned runs on the afternoon while striking out three batters.