WEST HARTFORD, Conn.— Days have now turned to hours until the University of Saint Joseph (USJ) softball team hops on the bus, and heads north to Medford, Massachusetts for the Regional Round of the 2019 NCAA Division III Softball Tournament, and we have everything you need to know before the first pitch Friday afternoon.
The Blue Jays, who earned an automatic bid after capturing the 2019 Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Championship last Saturday night, will play Tufts University (TU) on Friday afternoon in their first game of the Regional Round with first pitch slated for 4:30 p.m. Groups of four teams will play each other in a double-elimination style tournament to determine the one team who will move on to the Super Regional. Tufts will host the Medford Regional May 10-12 on Spicer Field. Joining USJ and TU in their pool are Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU) who will square off in the other opening round game on Friday at 2:00 p.m. The full schedule is posted at the bottom of this release.
WHO TO WATCH
Junior Pitcher Amaria Sharon (Tolland, Conn.) – Sharon made All-GNAC Second Team as a pitcher, where she went 10-5 inside the circle with 10 complete games, and a save in 19 appearances. Her 2.48 ERA was the third lowest in the GNAC, and her 10 wins were tied for fourth. Sharon threw four complete games (two shutouts) with a 1.25 ERA in route to a perfect 4-0 record in the GNAC Tournament, to capture USJ's third conference championship in school history. Sharon was awarded the 2019 GNAC Tournament Most Valuable Player.
At the plate, Sharon led the Blue Jays in virtually every offensive category (AB, R, H, 2B, AVG, OBP, SLG), on her way to setting career-high marks in home runs (2), doubles (11), and runs (31), hitting .431 overall (4th GNAC). Sharon also led the GNAC in hits.
Junior Designated Player McKenna Driscoll (Bristol, Conn.) – Driscoll led the Blue Jays in home runs (3) and doubles (11), hitting .370 for the season. She struggled in the GNAC Tournament (2-11, 2 BB), but can draw walks at will, and finds ways to drive runners in when in scoring position. Driscoll is due to break it open in the tournament with her concentrated power hitting, and a knack for sending base runners home when it matters most.
The Blue Jays (27-17) defeated Simmons University (SU), 3-0, in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Championship game last Saturday, capping the season on a six-game win streak, including a perfect 4-0 in the GNAC Tournament. USJ has not won an NCAA Tournament Softball game before, but with Sharon on the mound, and one of the best defenses in the GNAC behind her, the Blue Jays are sure to give this pool a run for their money.
Junior Third Baseman Jamie Stevens (Libertyville, Ill.) – Hit .337 with six homers, seven doubles, 25 runs, and 25 RBI. A power hitter at her best, Stevens led the Jumbos in home runs, hits (35), and sacrifice fly's (3). She was also hit-by-pitch a team-high six times, as pitcher's struggled to get her out in 100-plus at-bats. Stevens drove in runs in all three New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Championship games, hit .429 (3/7) for the tournament and played perfect defense at third base. Her solo home run in the bottom of the sixth in game one against Middlebury was good insurance in the 2-0 victory. After a sac fly in the semifinal win against the Trinity College (TC), Steven's RBI double in the first inning of the championship game ultimately provided the game-winning run.
Sophomore Pitcher Kristi Van Meter (Amston, Conn.) – Van Meter dominated hitters all season, posting a 13-2 record with three saves in 20 appearances and was named the NESCAC Pitcher of the Year. She finished the season with a 1.55 ERA, nine complete games, and five shutouts. A three-time NESCAC Pitcher of the Week, Van Meter was 2-0 with a save in the NESCAC Tournament including the win in the championship game (7 IP, 7 H, 2 R), where she got the final three outs with the tying run on second base.
The Jumbos (30-8) are three-time National Champions (2013-2015) and won their 11th NESCAC Championship with a 3-2 victory over Williams College this past weekend. With an 11-1 home record this season, expect the Jumbos to utilize their home field advantage in the circle and at the plate.
Senior Third Baseman Caraline Wood (Averill Park, N.Y.) – Wood finished fifth in all of Division III Softball with 56 runs batted in. She led the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) with 12 home runs and 56 RBI. She was also runner-up with a .455 batting average. In the NEWMAC Title Game, Wood was 2-for-3 with a double, three RBI and a pair of runs to lead WPI to a 5-4 win over MIT. In 18 conference games, Wood led the way with a 1.056 slugging percentage, eight home runs, 29 RBI and 57 total bases. Wood was selected as the 2019 NEWMAC Athlete of the Year.
Sophomore pitcher Katie Martin (Bedford, N.H.) – Martin pitched 13 innings and collected three victories, including a shutout in the NEWMAC Tournament. She finished fourth in the NEWMAC with a 2.00 ERA and 13 wins.
The Engineers (32-9) won 11 of their final 13 games in route to their second New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) tournament title in the last four seasons, defeating Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the winner take all finale, 5-4. WPI was 2-0 against GNAC teams this season: A 3-1 win vs. Simmons University (SU) on March 3, and a 9-2 win over St. Joseph's College (SJC) on March 7.
Freshman First Baseman Brooke Matyasovsky (Orange, Conn.) – Led the Little East Conference (LEC) in home runs (8) and RBI (38). Finished second on the Warriors squad with a .348 batting average, with just seven strikeouts in 115 at-bats. Had a team-high five RBI in the LEC Tournament.
Sophomore pitcher Morgan Bolduk (Vernon, Conn.) – Bolduk's numbers are tough to fathom. She finished sixth in the nation with a 0.83 ERA. She became the first pitcher in the LEC Tournament's 22-year history to throw four shutouts. The Warriors won all four, as Bolduk allowed just five hits, walked three, and struck out 22. Her performance garnered national attention, winning the final Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division III National Pitcher of the Week selection of the season.
The Warriors (29-11) are 4-2 all-time in the National Championship but haven't won it since 1990 ('82, '85-'86, '90), with championship game losses in 1989 and 1991. They received an automatic bid as the champions of the Little East Conference (LEC), defeating two-time defending champion University of Massachusetts Boston, 8-0, in five innings this past Saturday. Eastern qualified for its 21st NCAA Tournament in program history, needing one win to reach 30 victories in a season for the 14th time.
HOW TO WATCH
Ticket prices are $10 for adults, $8 for students and senior citizens, and $5 for children. Tickets will be on sale one hour prior to the start of the first game on each day.
This weekend's winner will advance to the NCAA Super Regional the next week against the winner of this weekend's MIT Regional. Along with the host Engineers, that pod includes Husson, Rowan and Eastern Nazarene. Super Regional winners advance to the NCAA Championship Finals in Tyler, Texas May 23-28.
The NCAA Division III Softball Committee announced the 62 teams that will compete in the Division III Softball Championship on Monday afternoon. Forty-two conferences received an automatic qualification (Pool A). Two institutions were selected from Pool B, which includes independent institutions and institutions from conferences that do not meet the automatic qualification criteria. The 18 remaining teams were selected on an at-large basis from automatic qualifying conferences and the remaining institutions in Pool B.
MEDFORD REGIONAL SCHEDULE
Friday, May 10
Game 1 at 2:00 pm, #2 WPI vs. #3 Eastern Connecticut
Game 2 at 4:30 pm, #1 Tufts vs. #4 St. Joseph's
Saturday, May 11
Game 3 at 12:00 pm, Game 1 Winner vs. Game 2 Winner
Game 4 at 2:30 pm, Game 1 Loser vs. Game 2 Loser
Game 5 at 5:00 pm, Game 3 Loser vs. Game 4 Winner
Sunday, May 12
Game 6 at 12:00 pm, Game 3 Winner vs. Game 5 Winner
Game 7 at 2:30 pm, if necessary