College of St. Joseph's softball team concluded an impressive, turnaround season when they fell to New Hampshire Technical Institute 5-2 in the Yankee Small College Conference championship on Saturday, May 5.
A season that started 3-11 through March experienced a turn for the better when Maggie Miller rejoined the program as Head Coach of the Lady Saints in April. Miller served as an assistant coach in 2016-17. After her appointment as the lead of the program the team went 13-5 in the month of April, including sweeps of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III competitor Johnson State College and YSCC opponents Central Maine Community College and Great Bay Community College.
The Lady Saints' 6-2 record in conference play throughout the season earned them the #2 seed going into the YSCC tournament. CSJ matched up with Southern Maine Community College, a team whom they split with during the regular season (9-5 win and 6-4 loss), and won 7-1 despite an early 1-0 deficit. Read a full recap of the semifinal contest by going to: http://csjfightingsaints.com/sports/sball/2017-18/releases/20180505rnb9pz
The victory over SMCC put the Lady Saints back in the conference championship for the first time since they claimed the YSCC title in the 2015-16 season thanks to a 2-0 win over New Hampshire Technical Institute. Last year CSJ fell to NHTI in the conference semifinal in five innings. This year's playoff performance against the Lynx displayed marked improvement by the Lady Saints.
CSJ opened the game with two runs in the top of the first inning. Sierra Jaeger singled to center field to reach base as the second batter in the lineup. Next, first-year player Timell Montgomery hit a home run in her first at-bat of the game that soared over the center field fence for a 2-0 Saints lead in the championship game.
The Lady Saints executed a one-two-three out inning in the bottom of the first to keep NHTI off the scoreboard. Katie Jenkins recorded a hit off a single to shortstop in the top of the second inning but was left on base. NHTI did not record a hit in the bottom of the inning.
The third inning saw CSJ's Jaeger record another single, this time on a ball that dropped perfectly in left field. This marked the only hit of the inning for either team, as the Lady Saints ended their turn on defense in the bottom of the inning with a double play. Crowley struck out NHTI's leadoff batter in the third.
After leading 2-0 for three innings, the Lady Saints saw their advantage diminish in the bottom of the fourth frame. The Lynx tallied three runs, including one unearned, and two hits to take a 3-2 lead in the game. NHTI saw more success at the plate in the fifth inning, recording three hits and two runs to cushion their lead to 5-2. Both runs during the inning were unearned. CSJ could not manage another hit during the final two innings and the score cemented at 5-2.
Both CSJ and NHTI finished with five hits on the game, however the Lynx's came at more pivotal times throughout the game. Montgomery finished with two of the Lady Saints' hits, one of which was a home run, and two RBI. Jaeger also notched two hits and one run. Jenkins recorded a single. Crowley, a co-captain of this year's squad, finished with two strikeouts in 4.2 innings on the mound. Senior co-captain Shelby Fenton closed the final 1.1 innings and gave up zero hits and zero runs.
Tori Lemay took the victory on the mound for the Lynx and recorded eight strikeouts. The win represents NHTI's third YSCC Championship in four years, interrupted only by CSJ's YSCC Softball Championship team in 2016. Graduating seniors Ashley Vasas and Crowley, junior Jaeger, and Head Coach Miller were members of the 2016 YSCC title team.
Fenton led this year's squad with a .417 batting average, .462 on base percentage and .556 slugging percentage. She recorded 45 hits, 29 RBI and an incredibly low three strikeouts on the season. Fenton tallied three home runs and six doubles.
Montgomery led the team with seven home runs, seven doubles and two triples. Her speed allowed her to make the most of every hit. She tied the team-high 29 RBI, while also recording six stolen bases. Classmate Arielys Rodriguez had 44 hits this season, a team-high 11 stolen bases and 11 RBI. She finishes the year with a .370 batting average, .400 on base percentage and a .420 slugging percentage. Lena Tirotta, also a first-year player, contributed 28 hits, 24 RBI, six doubles, three home runs and five stolen bases. She recorded a .358 batting average, .397 on base percentage, and .519 slugging percentage.
Crowley made 21 appearances on the pitcher's mound this year, including a team-high 14 starts. She finishes the year with a 7-5 record. She recorded 52 strikeouts throughout the year. Utility player Fenton threw a total 57.2 innings this season and recorded 17 strikeouts. First-year player McKenzie Ebert notched the best ERA of the pitching staff, with 4.34, and 32 strikeouts in 50 total innings of play.
Crowley, Fenton and Vasas will graduate on May 26 knowing they have made substantial contributions to the CSJ softball program.
History shows that a YSCC Championship loss will lead to a championship victory the following year ('14-'15 to '15-16), and the Lady Saints will look to improve their skills in the off-season to make that prediction a continued trend.