WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — The University of Saint Joseph (USJ) softball team is Boston bound Thursday for the second round of the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Tournament, the South side of the bracket being hosted by Simmons University (SU).
The Blue Jays (23-17, 12-4 GNAC) finished as the two seed in the south division, earning a bye in the first round. They will play three-seeded Johnson & Wales University (JWU) in game two at 4:30 p.m. (the tournament is double elimination):
Thursday, May 2, 2019 (double elimination begins)
Game 1: #3N Saint Joseph's (ME) vs. #2N Suffolk (hosted by #1N Emmanuel) - 4:30 PM
Game 2: #3S Johnson & Wales vs. #2S Saint Joseph (Conn.) (hosted by #1S Simmons) - 4:30 PM
Game 3: Winner of Game 1 at #1N Emmanuel - 6:30 PM
Game 4: Winner of Game 2 at #1S Simmons - 7:00 PM
Saturday, May 4, 2019 (hosted by #1S Simmons, Daly Field)
Game 5: Loser of Game 4 vs. Loser of Game 1 - 10:00 AM (elimination game)
Game 6: Loser of Game 3 vs. Loser of Game 2 - 12:30 PM (elimination game)
Game 7: Winner of Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4 - 3:00 PM
Game 8: Winner of Game 5 vs. Winner of Game 6 - 5:30 PM (elimination game)
Sunday, May 5, 2019 (hosted by #1S Simmons, Daly Field)
Game 9: Winner of Game 8 vs. Loser Game 7 - 10:00 AM (elimination game)
Game 10: Winner of Game 7 vs. Winner Game 9 - 12:30 PM
Game 11: If necessary - 3:00 PM
The Wildcats (21-18, 11-5 GNAC) are the four-time defending GNAC Champions (2015-18), and defeated Albertus Magnus College (AMC), 2-0, in the south division play-in game.
The Blue Jays split the season series with JWU, 1-1, in a doubleheader on April 6, and have won one GNAC Softball Championship (2000). They have only won one GNAC Tournament game though in the last five seasons.
Ones To Watch:
At the Plate
Freshman Center Fielder Megan Antaya (Somerset, Mass.) - Antaya dominated at the plate in her maiden season, hitting .457 (2nd GNAC) with four triples, six doubles, and 22 RBI. Antaya was 2-for-3 against the Blue Jays this season (2 1B, 2 R, BB), and is sure to be a scoring threat when it matters most.
Senior second baseman Ally Mishol (Longmeadow, Mass.) - When it comes to power hitting, Mishol cannot be ignored. She finished second in the GNAC in home runs (7) and set career-highs in batting average (.317), home runs (7), doubles (9), strikeouts (14), and slugging percentage (.583). Mishol struggled against the Blue Jays this season (0-5, BB, RBI), but can drive the ball the distance with one swing of the bat.
In the Circle
Junior Pitcher Kristin Frost (Pearl City, Hawaii) kept many batters at bay over the course of the season, finishing second in the GNAC in ERA (2.03) and strikeouts (92). Frost won seven of her last eight decisions, finishing the year 9-4. She picked up the win in game one against USJ this season, pitching a complete game shutout with eight strikeouts.
At the Plate
Junior Designated Player McKenna Driscoll (Bristol, Conn.) – Driscoll led the Blue Jays in home runs (3) and doubles (11), hitting .370 for the season. Driscoll struggled against JWU this season (0-5, R), but can draw walks at will, and finds ways to drive runners in when in scoring position.
Senior Shortstop Isabella Russo (Southington, Conn.) - Russo hit .336 on the year (HR, 8 2B, 26 RBI), leading the Blue Jays in runs batted in, but where she really shines is in clutch situations. Russo had two walk-off hits on the season, and her numbers in the four one-run wins for USJ tell the story: A .533 batting average with three doubles, three runs, and six RBI. When it comes to two out rallies, there are few players you'd rather have at the plate.
In the Circle
Junior Pitcher Amaria Sharon (Tolland, Conn.) – Sharon has put together an extensive resume in her three seasons at USJ, and this season has been no different. Sharon finished 10-5 (T-3rd GNAC), with a 2.48 ERA (3rd GNAC) and 10 complete games. She also delivers at the plate, leading the Blue Jays in batting average (.431), hits (56), doubles, (11) and was second in RBI (24). Sharon will look to lead USJ one last time, as she is one of two Blue Jays to graduate early (Megan Ricci).
USJ has made the tournament 10 straight years under head coach Jim McKinnon and 12 years overall. McKinnon feels like there is something different, something special going on with this team, and after two thrilling games with JWU already this year, there is no one he would rather go up against then the defending champs.
"They have a good team. Kim [Camara-Harvey, JWU Head Coach] does a really nice job with them, but I am confident that we are going to find a way to get the job done." McKinnon said.
The Blue Jays have used several lineup combinations this season. Players have noted the chemistry this team has put together throughout the year, capturing the third best record in the GNAC, and the second-best overall record. McKinnon believes whatever combination comes up Thursday will find a way to deliver.
"We are a team that's ready for a playoff run."
USJ will play in the second round of the GNAC Tournament on Thursday, May 2 at 4:30 p.m. against four-time defending GNAC Champion, Johnson & Wales (RI).