BOSTON, Mass. – The University of Saint Joseph (USJ) softball team fell behind early in both games, and could not overcome the hard hitting of Simmons University (SU), losing both games in a battle of the best in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) South Division, 7-3, on Daly Field Saturday.
The Sharks (18-20, 12-2 GNAC) clinched the top spot in the GNAC South with the Saturday sweep, and have won eight in a row. As the number one seed, Simmons will host the 2019 GNAC Softball Championship Tournament, which starts Thursday, May 2 at Daly Field. The Blue Jays (21-17, 10-4 GNAC) still sit second in the GNAC South, and can clinch it with a split of Saint Joseph's College (SJC) Sunday afternoon.
In game one, the Blue Jays were first on the board, but the Sharks put up five runs in the second and third inning, enough to stay in front, taking the first game 7-3.
Freshman pitcher Maddie Castigliego (Bristol, R.I.) was the one to watch in game one, finishing a single shy of the cycle (HR, 3B, 2B) on a perfect 3-for-3 from the plate, driving in a game-high six runs. Castigliego also threw a complete game, allowing three runs (2 ER) on four hits, and striking out seven in a winning effort (10-5). Senior center fielder Morgan Skoly (Vernon, Conn.) finished 2-for-3 for USJ with two singles, two runs, a walk and a stolen base. Freshman Ashlee White (Bristol, Conn.) delivered with an RBI pinch-hit single. Sophomore pitcher Alessandra Milardo (Plantsville, Conn.) took the loss (3-7), allowing five earned runs on eight hits in three innings of action.
Junior right fielder Bianca Pappacoda (East Haven, Conn.) drew a bases-loaded walk in the top of the second to get USJ up first, 1-0. The lead would be short lived though, as Castigliego ripped a triple to right in the bottom half, tying the game at 1. A single from freshman third baseman Alex Morang (Windham, Maine) scored Castigliego to make it 2-1 Sharks.
SU wasted no time increasing the gap, scoring three more runs in the bottom of third from none other than Castigliego, who Saint Joe's was unable to stop throughout the day. A three-run blast to left center off the bat of Castigliego gave the Sharks a 5-1 edge.
The Blue Jays were able to get things going with Pappacoda at the plate, as she reached on an error, scoring Skoly from third, who had drawn a walk to lead off the inning. Castigliego put the game away in the fifth though with a one-out double to left field, scoring two more runs.
USJ did get another run home, and threatened with two outs in the seventh, but Castigliego got out of the jam unscathed, giving the Sharks the 7-3 game one win.
Game two was more of the same, as SC went for 14 hits (26 in total) and held a five-run lead early, capping off a sweep with their second straight 7-3 win.
Senior first baseman Dom Ortiz (Lawrence, Mass.) had a game-high three RBI (3-4, 2B, 2 1B) for Simmons. Sophomore right fielder Danielle Carson (Ashland, Mass.) was 1-for-3 with a two-RBI triple. Junior designated player Amaria Sharon (Tolland, Conn.) and catcher McKenna Driscoll (Bristol, Conn.) drove in a run each for USJ.
Sophomore pitcher Hailey Yabroudy (Amherst, N.H.) picked up the win (7-8), allowing just three runs (2 ER) on three hits in a complete game. Freshman pitcher Natalie Amato (Cheshire, Conn.) took the loss (9-4), allowing five earned on six hits in one inning plus.
USJ once again struck first, as Sharon scored on a wild pitch to make it 1-0. SU followed it up with five runs in the first and second, scoring on two RBI singles, an RBI double, and a two RBI triple. Ortiz hit the first RBI single to make it 2-1, while Carson ripped a two-RBI triple to right center to highlight the second inning. The Sharks held a 5-1 advantage after two innings.
Driscoll got one back for USJ in the third with an RBI double to make it 5-2, but could not get any closer, as Ortiz put the game away with a two-RBI double to make it 7-2. The Sharks went on to win their second straight on Saturday 7-3, scoring 14 runs on 26 hits. The Blue Jays struggled to get a rally going at the plate, leaving 14 runners on base over two games on just seven hits and six runs.
USJ can clinch the two seed in the GNAC South Sunday, April 28 in a home doubleheader versus Saint Joseph's College (ME) at 12:00 and 2:00 p.m. on the USJ Softball Field. Simmons also plays Sunday at 12 and 2 at Norwich (VT).