No. 20 softball advances to NCAA Super Regionals for second-straight year

No. 20 softball advances to NCAA Super Regionals for second-straight year

MANCHESTER, N.H. – For the second consecutive season, the nationally-ranked and top-seeded Saint Anselm College softball team advanced to the 2019 NCAA Division II Super Regionals, thanks to Saturday's 4-0 blanking of Southern New Hampshire University in the East Region pod hosted by the Hawks.

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Ranked No. 20 in NCAA Division II, Saint Anselm improves to 40-8 overall on the season after defeating Bridgeport on Thursday and Southern New Hampshire (38-15) on Friday and Saturday in the East 1 Region pod. The Hawks will battle LIU Post, the winner of the other East Region pod, in the Super Regionals on Thursday, May 16 and Friday, May 17 at the Hilltop. The victor in the three-game series between LIU Post and Saint Anselm will claim the East Region title and a trip to Denver, Colo. for the NCAA Division II Softball National Championship.

Five of the Penmen's 15 losses on the season have come at the hands of Saint Anselm, who has now won 15 consecutive games and 25 of its last 26 contests. The Hawks also set a program record with their 14th shutout of the season, passing last year's team record of 13 games without yielding a run.

For the 22nd time this season, junior pitcher Morgan Perry (Bethany, Conn.) went the distance for the Hawks, finishing with five strikeouts and allowing just a pair of hits and two walks for her 25th victory of the year in the circle. The unanimous Northeast-10 Conference Pitcher of the Year set the single-season team record for innings pitched (198) and completed the afternoon with 220 strikeouts, extending her single-season record.

Junior Maggie Murphy (Scarborough, Maine) had three hits at the dish, scoring twice and driving in a run to lead the Hawks offense. With 99 career runs scored, Murphy passed Amanda Bickford '18 for sole possession of fourth place on the all-time list. Classmate Erin Thompson (Newton, N.H.) drove in two runs with two hits, including a double down the left field line.

Saint Anselm scored twice in the first inning and never looked back. The Hawks loaded the bases with three straight singles by junior Shannon Colson (Rochester, N.H.), Murphy, and sophomore Lauren Washburn (Carmichael, Calif.). Senior Jordan O'Connor (New Fairfield, Conn.) knocked in the first run with a sacrifice fly to left before Thompson plated Murphy to put the Hawks up 2-0. However, Penmen starter Maddy Barone got out of the inning, leaving them loaded with a pair of strikeouts to end the frame.

Southern New Hampshire put a pair of runners on with two outs in the second, but Perry got a ground out to herself to end the inning unscathed, retiring the next seven batters she faced. 

Saint Anselm tacked on a run in the fifth inning. Murphy began the inning with a single and moved all the way to third on a single by Washburn. An unfortunate double play brought up Thompson with two outs, but the junior delivered with a double down the left field line to easily score Murphy from third.

Saint Anselm turned a double play themselves in the bottom of the frame. Gabriella Vachon reached on a fielder's choice, but Perry caught a line drive to begin the inning-ending double play.

The Hawks added an insurance run in the sixth. Freshman Kylie Fitzpatrick (Danville, N.H.) walked before Colson was hit with a pitch two batters later. A two-out single up the middle by Murphy scored Fitzpatrick from second for a 4-0 advantage. 

That was all Perry needed as she finished the game retiring the final nine batters she faced. Barone took the loss in just four-and-two-thirds innings of work. She allowed three runs on seven hits and a pair of walks. Olivia Strasser finished out the contest for the Penmen, allowing a run on one hit and a walk.