Fairfield, CT – Sacred Heart senior pitcher Jen Russell (Seymour, CT) got stronger in the late innings, tossing a one-hit shutout as the Pioneer softball team defeated cross-town rival Fairfield, 3-0, Thursday afternoon. Courtney Lee (Camarillo, CA) had the biggest hit of the day, increasing an early SHU advantage by smashing a two-run double to right field in the third inning. Russell retired 12 of the last 13 batters she faced, with the lone Stag runner reaching on an error, to record her 11th win and fifth complete game shutout of 2011.
Sacred Heart (19-16) took a 1-0 edge in the bottom of the first inning without registering a hit. Lee and Liz Tsipouras (Simi Valley, CA) extended the frame with a pair of two-out walks. Lee attempted to steal on ball four to Tsipouras and the throw found its way into center field, allowing Lee to move to third. On the next delivery to the plate Tsipouras intentionally got caught in a run-down for the third out, but not before Lee sprinted home for the game's first run.
Fairfield (18-14) would have its best scoring opportunity in the top of the second, loading the bases with one out on two walks and a SHU error. Russell then forced Kim Kurata to pop out to third before ending the threat by striking out Kristen Filicia on one of her eight K's of the afternoon. The Stags got their only hit of the ball game to start the third on a Tiffany Lawson leadoff single. Fairfield would put runners at the corners with only one out but Shannon McCoy (Yorba Linda, CA) gunned down an attempted base stealer for the second out and Russell induced a ground ball from the next hitter to the inning.
Alyssa Garza (Santa Clarita, CA) opened SHU's half of the third inning with a single and reached third on a Taylor Froelich (Garden Grove, CA) drive that went off the glove of the Fairfield center fielder. Jade Bowins (Frederick, MD) picked up an infield single to load the bases and set the stage for Lee's two-run double. Tsipouras then lifted a fly ball to left field but Bowins was thrown out trying to tag from third on a strong throw from Lawson. Fairfield starter Sarah Minice limited the damage there and would eventually leave the game after four innings of work, allowing only one earned run.
The 3-0 cushion was all Russell needed as she rolled through the Stags batting order and secured the Sacred Heart victory. The Pioneer win snapped a seven game Fairfield winning streak and gives SHU some momentum heading into a crucial weekend of Northeast Conference play.
The Sacred Heart softball team travels to Pennsylvania for a Sunday double header at Robert Morris before a pair of games Monday afternoon against Saint Francis (PA)