Fairfield, CT – The Sacred Heart softball team gave its senior class a memorable final two regular season games at Pioneer Park by sweeping Long Island, 2-0 and 7-0, to secure a spot in the 2011 Northeast Conference tournament. Senior Jen Russell (Seymour, CT) and sophomore Nicole Sidor (West Vancouver, BC) each tossed a pair of three-hit complete game shutouts inside the pitching circle. Taylor Froelich (Garden Grove, CA) became the second Pioneer in program history to reach the 200 hit plateau as the senior picked up the historic hit in game one in front of friends and family.
Sacred Heart (25-19, 12-6 NEC) opened the scoring with a run in the second inning of game one as Liz Tsipouras (Simi Valley, CA) started the frame with a single to right center. Annie Dreher (Saugus, CA) laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Tsipouras into scoring position. Sidor drove a double to the right field fence to plate the run and give SHU the early 1-0 edge. The Pioneers would make it 2-0 in the third on a Jade Bowins (Frederick, MD) RBI infield single, scoring Alyssa Garza (Santa Clarita, CA), who started the inning with a double off the left field wall.
That would be enough of a cushion for SHU to earn the victory as Russell would put together her seventh complete game shutout of 2011. The Blackbirds had just one serious threat, loading the bases with no outs in the top of the fifth. Russell induced a ground ball that cut down a runner at the plate followed by an infield fly to record the first two outs. She then struck out LIU leadoff hitter Madison Zymokowitz to escape the inning unblemished. Russell did not surrender a hit in the final two frames as Sacred Heart took game one of the double dip, 2-0.
Long Island (15-34, 5-11 NEC) immediately fell behind in game two as starting pitcher Sarah Reynolds was unable to record an out before leaving the game. The first seven Pioneer hitters reached base as SHU stormed out to a 6-0 lead before the inning was over. The big hit came on a bases clearing three-run double off the bat of Dreher. Tsipouras also drew a bases loaded walk in the inning to collect her NEC leading 38th RBI of the year.
Sidor picked up right where Russell left off and allowed just two Blackbirds to get as far as third base. The Pioneer hurler went the distance, striking out five, for her second shutout of 2011. SHU tacked on an insurance run in the third as Froelich lifted a sacrifice fly to left field to score pinch runner Marissa Montemagni (Chicopee, MA).
The SHU softball program honored all six of their graduating players in a ceremony before today's double header. The class of 2011 includes Russell, Froelich, Courtney Lee (Camarillo, CA), Shannon McCoy (Yorba Linda, CA), Jasmin Vicente (Wantagh, NY), and Kylie Abrams (Thousand Oaks, CA).
The sweep of LIU coupled with other results from around the league secured the Pioneers first playoff berth since capturing the 2009 NEC championship. Sacred Heart can still claim a share of the regular season crown and the top-seed in the 2011 NEC tournament by sweeping Bryant tomorrow and having Robert Morris lose one of its final four games.
Sacred Heart meets Bryant in Smithfield, Rhode Island tomorrow afternoon with the first pitch scheduled for 12:00 pm.