USJ Softballs Magical run ends in NCAA Regional’s

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MEDFORD, Mass. – The Tufts University softball team scored seven runs in the third inning to get going on an 11-0 five-inning victory over the University of Saint Joseph in the opening round of the NCAA Regional at Spicer Field on Friday afternoon.

The Jumbos (31-8) advance to Game 3 of the Regional on Saturday where they will take on Eastern Connecticut State University (30-11) in a winner’s bracket match-up at noon. The Warriors defeated WPI 6-3 in Friday’s other opening-round action at Tufts. The Jumbos-Eastern Connecticut winner will be in the driver’s seat for the tournament heading into Sunday.

Saint Joseph (27-18) will play an elimination game against WPI on Saturday at 2:30 pm at Spicer.

After a scoreless first two innings, the Jumbos sent 11 batters to the plate, had seven hits, and benefitted from three Blue Jay errors in the third to take a commanding 7-0 lead. An early RBI triple by junior center fielder Maggie Lebinski (Monroe, Conn.) started the big inning. Sophomore second baseman Emma Della Volpe (Concord, Mass.) followed with an RBI double and senior right fielder Kristen Caporelli (Taunton, Mass.) soon added a two-run double. Senior designated player Christian Cain (Houston, Texas) brought home another run with a double for the fourth extra-base hit of the frame.

Meanwhile, Jumbo sophomore starter Kristina Haghdan (Pelham, N.H.) was throwing a two-hit shutout. She allowed a walk to Blue Jays senior center fielder Morgan Skoly (Vernon, Conn.) in the second, a single by junior pitcher Amaria Sharon (Tolland, Conn.) in the third, and a single to junior designated player McKenna Driscoll (Bristol, Conn.) in the fourth. Skoly stole a base and was the only Blue Jay to reach second. Haghdan struck out six in a complete game effort to improve her record to 12-3 on the year.

Tufts scored four more in the fourth to lead 11-0. Junior Maria Ostapovich (Fort Collins, Colo.) had a two-run pinch-hit single to highlight the inning.

Six of Tufts’ 11 runs were unearned against Saint Joseph pitchers Sharon and freshman Natalie Amato (Cheshire, Conn.), as the Blue Jays made four errors overall. Sharon took the loss giving up eight hits and seven runs (four earned) over three innings of work.

Caporelli finished 2-for-3 with two RBI and two runs for the Jumbos, while Della Volpe went 2-for-3 with two runs and an RBI. Cain and junior third baseman Jamie Stevens (Libertyville, Ill.) both scored twice and junior left fielder Emily Serata (Voorhees, N.J.) was 2-for-2 with a run. Sophomore Reegan Coleman (Scottsdale, Ariz.) finished with two RBI for the hosts.

NCAA Regional Game 2 vs. WPI: USJ tried to keep their NCAA hopes alive on Saturday but feel 12-3 to WPI in five innings. WPI took the lead early with a run in the first and continued to add on with five runs in the second and three more in the third to open a 9-0 advantage after 2 1/2 innings. The Blue Jays battled back scoring two in the bottom of the third, only to watch WPI (33-10) extend their lead a couple innings later.

USJ plated two runs in the third when freshman Julia Annecchiarico came through with a two-out, two RBI double scoring junior Amaria Sharon and sophomore Michelle Woodruff. In the game the Blue Jays pounded out seven hits with Sharon leading the way, going 3-3 with a run scored. In the two NCAA Regional contests Sharon went a combined 4-5, accounting for five of the nine Blue Jay hits in the tournament.

The Blue Jays won six straight games heading into NCAA Regional play, including four straight in the GNAC Tournament to win their first conference title since 2000 and the first under 14-year head coach Jim McKinnon. USJ finished the year 27-19 and 12-4 in GNAC play.