May 8, 2009
Queens, NY-The Pioneer softball team has advanced to the NEC championship game in its first tournament appearance in history. Sacred Heart used a gritty effort from Jen Russell (Seymour, CT) who tossed her second complete game of the afternoon as SHU flew past the Hawks 4-1 to earn its spot in the NEC title game. Sophomore Taylor Froelich (Garden Grove, CA) put the Pioneers ahead early leading off the bottom of the first with her second homer of the day.
Sacred Heart (24-26) built an early lead in the winner's bracket contest as they loaded the bases after Froelich's homer in the first. The Pioneers were in danger of not adding to their lead after loading the bases with no outs but Shannon McCoy (Yorba Linda, CA) looped a single over the first base bag to extend the SHU advantage to 2-0.
Russell, who threw 91 pitches in the Pioneers first game of the day, showed fatigue but gutted her way through her 26th complete game and 17th win of 2009. Monmouth (26-17-1) cut the Sacred Heart lead in half in the fifth inning as Jessica Nicola hit a solo home run, the first homerun given up by Russell all season. Monmouth starter Kristine Sawlsville lasted just three and two thirds innings giving up two runs.
Sacred Heart stranded six base runners in the first four innings as the struggled to find Russell insurance runs. Jessica Perez (Santa Maria, CA) would finally provide the cushion Sacred Heart had been looking for all game with a two-run single in the bottom of the sixth. Russell would work her way out of major trouble in the seventh after the first two runners reached base. She fanned Jaime Jurewicz to seal the Pioneers championship bid and the celebration was on as the sophomore pitcher leapt into the arms of her catcher McCoy.
The Pioneers will take on the winner of tomorrow morning's play in game between Long Island and Monmouth. The winner of that game will have to beat the Pioneers twice to become champions. Sacred Heart needs just one win to claim the NEC crown and earn an automatic to the NCAA tournament. First pitch for the Pioneers is set for 12:30 pm at Red Storm Field.