WEST HARTFORD, Conn. - First year relief pitcher Bridget Garach (West Hartford, Conn.) threw four innings of two-hit ball and first year second baseman Lauren Del Vacchio (Murrieta, Calif.) was 3-5 and knocked in the go-ahead run to lead the number eight seed Simmons College softball team to a 6-4 victory over host fifth-seeded University of Saint Joseph in the opening round of the Great Northeast Athletic Conference Championship Tournament this evening at USJ Softball Field in West Hartford, Conn. The Sharks improve to 15-23 on the season and advance to take on number four seeded Albertus Magnus College on Thursday, May 4 at 3:00 p.m. at tournament host Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I. The Blue Jays fall to 20-17.
The win was the first GNAC Tournament victory for SC since a 5-3 decision over Johnson & Wales on April 27, 2014 to send the squad to the Championship game.
Del Vacchio finished with a run batted in and a run scored for Simmons, while senior third baseman Brianna Rastello (Salem, N.H.) went 2-5 with two RBI and a run scored. First year center fielder Molly Hennessey (Charlton, Mass.) and sophomore left fielder Sam Curran (Concord, N.H.) each collected a pair of hits as well. Garach improved to 3-1 on the season for the Sharks. Sophomore starting hurler Tori Gomes (Taunton, Mass.) gave up four runs on eight hits and three walks in four frames, while striking out one.
First year starting pitcher Amaria Sharon (18-10) suffered the loss for Saint Joseph, giving up six runs (five earned) on 13 hits and two walks to go with five strikeouts. She also contributed at the plate with a single and a double to knock in a pair of runs. Sophomore second baseman Isabella Russo (Southington, Conn.) was 3-4 with a double and a run batted in and first year catcher McKenna Driscoll (Bristol, Conn.) finished with two hits in three at-bats and added a walk.
Curran led off the top of the eighth with an infield single for Simmons and classmate Michaela Reeves (Reading, Mass.) reached on a mishandled bunt, while both runners moved into scoring position on an errant throw on the play. Following an out, Del Vacchio came through with her third hit of the day, plating Curran with a single through the left side to give the Sharks their first lead of the day at 5-4. Rastello followed with a single through the left side as well to score Reeves and increase the Simmons margin to 6-4. Hennessey drew a one-out walk to load the bases, but Saint Joseph was able to get out of the inning without any further damage.
Garach yielded just one walk in the bottom of the eighth and fielded a pair of ground balls to give her five infield assists in the final six outs of the game to close out the contest and pick up the victory for Simmons.
The Blue Jays put two runs on the board to open the scoring in the bottom of the first. Sophomore center fielder Megan Skoly (Vernon, Conn.) smacked a leadoff single, before junior shortstop Sarah Ercoli (East Granby, Conn.) worked a walk. The runners both moved into scoring position on a wild pitch to set up a sacrifice fly off the bat of sophomore first baseman Rachel Dube (Southington, Conn.) to bring home Skoly with the first run of the game. Driscoll followed with a run-producing single to plate Ercoli to give the home team a 2-0 lead.
The Sharks cut the deficit in half with a run in the second after first year shortstop Ashley Lynch (Shrewsbury, Mass.) and Curran opened the frame with back-to-back singles to set up an opposite field double to the left center gap off the bat of Reeves to score Lynch.
Saint Joseph tacked on single runs in the third and fourth to take a 4-1 advantage. The Blue Jays loaded the bases without an out when Sharon and Dube singled, followed by a walk from Driscoll. Saint Joseph looked primed to break the game open, but Gomes fielded a come-backer to the circle and turned it into a 1-2-3 double play. Russo came through with a run-scoring single up the middle to salvage a run for the home squad. First year right fielder Taylor Marino (Middlefield, Conn.) reached on a bunt single to open the fourth and later scored on a two-out double to center from Sharon for the Blue Jays' fourth run of the day.
Simmons rallied for three runs in the fifth to knot the contest at 4-4. Senior catcher Alison Gauvin (Whitefield, Maine) beat out a one-out bunt single and Del Vacchio stroked a single to left, before Rastello knocked in Gauvin with a single to left. Hennessey singled to center to extend her hitting streak to 12 straight games and load the bases with one out. First year designated player Alex Soqui (Acushnet, Mass.) came through with the biggest hit of her young career, driving in a pair of runs with a single up the middle to pull the Sharks even at 4-4.
Saint Joseph looked to reclaim the lead in the bottom of the inning when Driscoll singled and an out later Russo doubled to put runners on second and third. First year left fielder Megan Ricci (Center Moriches, N.Y.) hit sharp grounder to second, where Del Vacchio fielded and threw a strike to the plate to cut down Driscoll for the out. Neither team was able to push a run across in the sixth and seventh innings as Garach handled three straight ground balls in the seventh to send the game into extra innings.