WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — The eighth-seeded Simmons College Sharks scored a pair of runs in the top of the eighth inning to earn a 6-4, come-from-behind victory over the fifth-seeded University of Saint Joseph softball team in a Great Northeast Athletic Conference Tournament First Round game held at the USJ Softball Field on Tuesday afternoon. Freshman Lauren Del Vacchio's (Murrieta, Calif.) RBI single proved to be the game-winning hit for the Sharks in extra innings.
Simmons improves to 15-23 overall with the win and advances to the six-team, double-elimination portion of the GNAC Tournament beginning on Thursday, May 4. They will take on the fourth-seeded Albertus Magnus Falcons at 3 p.m. at Johnson & Wales. St. Joseph concludes the season with an overall record of 20-17.
Trailing 4-1 after four complete innings of play, the Sharks managed to score five unanswered runs, including a pair in the top of the eighth inning to complete the come-from-behind victory on the road. Sophomore Sam Curran (Concord, N.H.) led off the top of the eighth with a rocket single to the third basemen to get things started for the Sharks. A mishandled sacrifice bunt by USJ then put runners on the corners for Simmons with no outs. USJ's freshman hurler Amaria Sharon (Tolland, Conn.) then registered a strikeout, but Del Vacchio stepped in next and pulled a single through the left side to record what would be the game-winning hit. Senior Brianna Rastello (Salem, N.H.) followed with a RBI single to tack on an extra run and to account for the 6-4 final.
The Blue Jays struck first in the game wasting little time and pushing across a pair of runs in the bottom of the first inning. Sophomore Morgan Skoly (Vernon, Conn.) singled to leadoff the frame followed by a walk to junior Sarah Ercoli (East Granby, Conn.). They each moved up a base on a wild pitch before Sharon drove in the first run of the contest with a RBI ground out. Sophomore Rachel Dube (Southington, Conn.) followed with a sacrifice fly to left to bring in Ercoli and give USJ the early 2-0 cushion.
Simmons answered immediately with a run in the top of the second to cut their deficit in half, 2-1. Freshman Ashley Lynch (Shrewsbury, Mass.) sparked a two-out rally with a single followed by a another single from Curran before sophomore Michaela Reeves (Reading, Mass.) launched a RBI double to left center field to bring home Lynch.
In the third, the Blue Jays loaded the bases with no outs to start the frame. However, the Sharks induced a huge 1-2-3 double play to deny what could have been a big inning for USJ. St. Joseph was able to manage to push one run across though after sophomore Isabella Russo (Southington, Conn.) ripped a clutch two-out RBI single up the middle to push the score to 3-1 in favor of the hosts.
USJ kept up the pressure offensively and tacked on another run to make it 4-1 in the bottom of the fourth. A two-out, RBI double over the head of the Sharks' center fielder by Sharon drove in freshman Taylor Marino (Middlefield, Conn.), who singled to start the inning.
Simmons flipped the momentum of the game though and ignited its comeback in the top of the fifth. Five consecutive one-out singles by the Sharks plated three runs to tie the game 4-4. Rastello drove in the first RBI with a single to left field before freshman Alex Soqui (Acushnet, Mass.) came up with the clutch hit, a two-RBI single up the middle, to knot the game. That setup for the dramatic in extra innings and Del Vacchio's go-ahead RBI single.
Freshman Bridget Garach (West Hartford, Conn.) was stellar for the Sharks in the circle. She came on in relief and pitched the final four innings to earn the win, while allowing just a pair of hits and blanking the Blue Jays over the final four frames. She improves to 3-1 on the season. Sharon was dealt the loss for USJ and finishes her freshman campaign with an 18-10 overall record. She fired a complete game, allowing six runs (five earned) on 13 hits and a pair of walks. She struck out five.
Russo led the way for USJ offensively, finishing 3-for-4 at the plate with a double and a RBI. Sharon and freshman McKenna Driscoll (Bristol, Conn.) both picked up two-hit bids in the loss, while Sharon drove in a pair of RBI.
Del Vacchio finished 3-for-5 with a RBI and a run scored and Rastello went 2-for-5 with a pair of RBI and a run scored to pace the Sharks.