Fairfield, CT – The Sacred Heart softball team suffered a double header sweep at the hands of Saint Francis (PA) Saturday afternoon at Pioneer Park. The Pioneers were defeated 4-1 in an 11 inning marathon before falling in the nightcap by the same score. The two losses officially eliminate the Pioneers from the Northeast Conference playoff race and a chance to defend their 2011 crown.
Sacred Heart (17-30, 6-12 NEC) immediately took a 1-0 lead as Nicole Sidor (West Vancouver, BC) leadoff the bottom of the first with a rocket over the left field wall for her team leading ninth homerun of 2012. However, the Pioneers would be unable to dent the scoreboard for the remainder of the game. SFU starter Brooke Koch closed out her stat line with 10 innings pitched, one run, six hits and eight strikeouts en route to the victory.
Saint Francis (PA) (21-21, 8-8 NEC) was unable to solve the SHU starting pitcher, Sidor, until the sixth frame. Taylor Darneille knocked a one-out double to center field. Her pinch runner, Misty Hammel, scored one batter later on a RBI single from Karlie Miller. That would be the only blemish on Sidor's line as the junior hurler tossed eight innings, allowing just one run on six hits to pick up a no decision.
The Pioneers nearly pushed across the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning as Kate Nadler (Southbury, CT) got herself into scoring position with a single and a stolen base. Nikki Surkes (Brightwaters, NY) notched a base hit through the left side of the infield to set up a play at the plate. Nadler collided with Paige Smith but the SFU catcher held onto the ball to end the inning and extend the game.
Both teams made mistakes in the tenth inning with a runner placed on second. Nadler made a great diving stop and fired to second to catch the Red Flash runner off the bag. Saint Francis (PA) returned the favor in the bottom half of the frame when a SHU runner was unable to hold the bag sliding into third on a sacrifice attempt.
The Red Flash got its second run of the game in the 11th inning with runners on first as third head coach Jennifer Patrick-Swift called for a squeeze play. However, the score came after the ball went into left field as the Pioneers tried to pick off the runner retreating to third. Saint Francis (PA) extended the cushion to 4-1 on a two-run single off the bat of Smith. Megan Layne came out of the bullpen to strike out the side in the bottom of the 11th and earn her first save of the season.
The visitors grabbed a 1-0 edge in the top of the first inning of game two on the strength of a two-out rally. Taylor Parsons singled to left center and swiped second base to get herself into scoring position. Darneille delivered the RBI single to left to make it 1-0 in favor of the Red Flash. Saint Francis (PA) added a marker in the third with another RBI single from Smith.
Sacred Heart recovered from a SFU double play in its half of third and reset the table with Sidor and Jade Bowins (Frederick, MD) both finding their way on base. SHU got onto the scoreboard after a Red Flash error allowed Sidor to cross the plate. After Liz Tsipouras (Simi Valley, CA) was issued a free pass Saint Francis (PA) again called for Layne out of the bullpen.
Layne was able to escape the jam and shut down SHU the rest of the way. She surrendered three hits in her 4.1 innings of work to earn the win. Saint Francis (PA) got a pair of insurance runs to make it 4-1 following three straight hits in the top of the fifth inning. Kacie Wentworth (Canton, NY) got the start in the circle for SHU and allowed four runs in her 5.2 innings of action. Taylor Lane (Lisbon, CT) pitched 1.1 scoreless innings in relief.
The Pioneers best chance came when Annie Dreher (Saugus, CA) tripled to start the sixth inning. However, the next six Sacred Heart batters were retired as Saint Francis (PA) secured the double header sweep.
The SHU softball team returns to action on Tuesday for a non-conference clash with cross-town rival Fairfield. First-pitch is set for 3:30 pm.