Moon Township, PA – The SHU softball team knocked off top-seeded Robert Morris 7-3 Saturday afternoon to advance to its second NEC title game in three years. Shannon McCoy (Yorba Linda, CA) was red hot at the plate, going 4-for-4 while scoring a run and notching a RBI. The Pioneers racked up 14 total hits in a game that took over five and a half hours, including a lengthy rain delay.
Sacred Heart (29-19) exploded onto the scoreboard first, hanging up four runs in the second inning. Liz Tsipouras (Simi Valley, CA) and Annie Dreher (Saugus, CA) led off the frame with back-to-back base hits, putting runners at the corners. The first score came on a fielder's choice off the bat of Nicole Sidor (West Vancouver, BC) as the Colonials were unable to cut down Tsipouras at the plate. McCoy ripped an 0-2 pitch into center field to increase the advantage to 2-0.
Alyssa Garza (Santa Clarita, CA), the Pioneers nine hitter and shortstop, laid down a perfect suicide squeeze and Sidor slid into home safely for the tally. NEC player of the year Taylor Froelich (Garden Grove, CA) capped off the inning with an infield single and a throwing error at the end of the play made it 4-0, SHU. In the bottom of the second the two teams had to weather a three and a half hour rain delay before resuming action.
Robert Morris (26-25) cut into its deficit immediately following the rain delay as Chelsea Evans dumped an RBI single into no-man's land in right field. SHU senior pitcher Jen Russell (Seymour, CT) escaped the inning as Jade Bowins (Frederick, MD) made a diving catch in left field for the third out. The Pioneers got the run back in the top of the third as Sidor notched her fourth RBI of the tournament with a single down the line in left. The Colonials continued to trade runs with SHU in their half of the fourth, pushing across a marker to make it 5-2.
The Pioneers loaded the bases with one out in the fifth inning but RMU starter Alexa Bryson got back-to-back strikeouts to end the threat. Robert Morris scratched out a run on the same scenario thanks to a wild pitch, moving the score line to 5-3.
Sacred Heart padded its lead to where it had been before the rain delay with a pair of tallies in the top of the sixth. Froelich reached on a walk and eventually advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch. Courtney Lee (Camarillo, CA) drove in her first run of the tournament to make it 6-3 and chase Bryson from the game. Two batters later Dreher chopped a single through the middle of the diamond to plate Lee and stretch the Pioneer advantage to 7-3.
That would be all of the support Russell needed as the SHU defense was solid in the final two frames to secure the victory and advance into the championship round of the 2011 NEC Tournament. Russell is now 2-0 in the event with a 2.00 ERA. Sacred Heart will now face the winner of the #1 Robert Morris versus #3 Quinnipiac elimination game.
The Pioneers will have two opportunities to claim their second NEC championship in the last three years. The date and time for the first championship game is still to be determined. Fans can get additional information and updates on the NEC championship headquarters at www.northeastconference.org.