WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – The University of Saint Joseph (USJ) softball team did their job Sunday, sweeping Saint Joseph's College (SJC) to clinch the two seed in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) South Division, on a wild and rainy senior day on the USJ Softball Field.
The Blue Jays (23-17, 12-4 GNAC) finish the regular season having won six of their last eight, while the Monks (10-19, 8-6 GNAC) have lost eight straight.
Saint Joe's was not going to let a little dampness in the dirt take away from their senior day, honoring seven seniors who have done nothing but leave it all on the field. They have also left it all in the classroom (two are juniors graduating early). USJ rode that wave of momentum into the Sunday sweep, effectively clinching the two seed in the GNAC South. The number one seed, Simmons (MA), will host the 2019 GNAC Softball Championship Tournament, which starts Thursday, May 2 at Daly Field.
In game one, the Blue Jays prevailed in a pitcher's duel, capped off by a walk-off RBI double for senior shortstop Isabella Russo (Southington, Conn.), who has proven time and time again that she wants the bat in these clutch situations. USJ took game one below the clearing overcast skies, 2-1.
Junior pitcher Amaria Sharon (Tolland, Conn.) finished her final home start in style, allowing just one run on seven hits in complete game. She also picked up her team-best 10th win of the season (10-5, 4th in GNAC). Russo finished 2-for-4 with a single and the RBI double. Junior designated player McKenna Driscoll (Bristol, Conn.) also drove in a run on a hard hit double. Junior designated player Maizie Lee (Saco, Maine) had an RBI triple for the Monks, while senior first baseman Melodie Bailey (Lebanon, Maine) was a perfect 3-for-3 from the plate with three singles. Junior pitcher Kate Whitney (Jonesboro, Maine) took the loss (5-9), allowing two runs (1 ER) on eight hits in six and two thirds.
Sharon and Whitney did not let the weather effect their delivery, as both maintained total control throughout. Both teams tacked on a run early; an RBI double by Driscoll in the first, followed by the RBI triple by Lee in the second. The game remained tied, 1-1.
Both teams threatened in the sixth with multiple baserunners. Sharon was able to get two force outs at third to keep the runners from scoring, while Whitney forced a ground out with runners at second and third to keep it tied heading to the seventh.
The Monks could not muster anything in the top half, giving USJ a chance to walk-off with a run in the bottom half. A one-out double by freshman left fielder Ashlee White (Bristol, Conn.) started the rally. Sharon then reached on an error to put runners on the corners. After a fielder's choice had White out at home in a play at the plate, Russo stepped in with two outs and runners on first and second. She wasted no time, cracking a ball off the bat deep down the right field line, giving the Blue Jays a dramatic 2-1 win.
In game two, USJ took a 3-0 lead in the third inning, and maintained the lead to the end despite some back and forth scoring, defeating the Monks 7-3.
Driscoll, Russo and Sharon once again carried the load offensively, combining to hit 6-for-11 with two doubles and three RBI. Sophomore catcher Megan Eagleston (Reading, Mass.) finished 1-for-3 with an RBI single for SJC.
Sophomore pitcher Alessandra Milardo (Plantsville, Conn.) picked up the win (4-7), allowing three runs on eight hits in five plus innings. Sharon came in to finish things off, picking up the save (1) in two innings of work, allowing just one hit. Sophomore pitcher Caitlyn King (Old Town, Maine) took the loss (5-9), allowing four runs on six hits in four innings of action.
Milardo got things going at the plate, as her groundout scored the first run of the game. A wild pitch from King made it 2-0, and an RBI single from sophomore first baseman Amanda Thiel (Torrington, Conn.) gave USJ a commanding 3-0 lead.
Milardo dealt with some adversity in her final two innings of work, but each time, she was able to get out of a jam minimizing the damage. She also had her teammates backing her up, as the Blue Jays continued to get on the board. After trading runs in the fourth and fifth, USJ added two in the six to take a 7-3 lead. Sharon allowed her only hit in the seventh, but quickly got out before things got hairy, and the Blue Jays capped off the regular season with a sweep on senior day.
It's on to the GNAC Tournament for the Blue Jays, who have earned a buy as the two seed in the GNAC South. They will play in the second round on Thursday, May 2. A time and opponent are still to be determined.