BOSTON, Mass. – First year starting pitcher Maddie Castigliego (Bristol, R.I.) allowed just one earned run over nine innings and classmate Allie Mulhern (Westford, Mass.) blooped a run-scoring single to give the Simmons University softball team a walk-off 3-2 victory over Emmanuel College (Mass.) in the loser's bracket final of the Great Northeast Athletic Conference Tournament this afternoon at Daly Field in Brighton, Mass. The Sharks even their record at 22-22 and advance to the GNAC Championship game for the first time since 2014 with their first-ever post-season victory over Emmanuel. The Saints end their season with a 25-14 mark.
Castigliego scattered 11 hits to allow just two runs (one earned) and issued one free pass, while striking out five in a gutty 153-pitch effort to improve to 14-6 on the season for Simmons. Mulhern finished the day at 1-4 with an RBI, while first year third base Alex Morang (Windham, Maine) was 2-4 with a double and a run batted in. Sophomore left fielder Ivy Vann (Bend, Ore.) smacked a double and drove in a run, while sophomore second base Marissa Santoro (Franklin, Mass.) reached base three times with a pair of talks and a single to go with two runs scored.
Senior left fielder Olivia Burgos (Newington, Conn.) paced the Emmanuel offense, going 2-5 with a triple and an RBI, while senior catcher Casey Sheehan (Medway, Mass.) was 2-4 with an RBI. Senior designated player Ashley Skey (Brookline, N.H.) and junior center fielder Sarah Hoisl (West Hartford, Conn.) also went 2-4 on the afternoon.
Santoro opened the bottom of the ninth with a leadoff single for the Sharks' first hit since the sixth inning and Morang later followed with a single of her own to put runners on the corners with one out. Mulhern, who was without a hit over the first eight innings, chipped a single just over the infield and into short right field to plate Santoro with the winning run to give Simmons a 3-2 edge.
The Sharks got on the board in the second inning when Santoro drew a leadoff walk and Morang later roped a double to the right-center field gap to score Santoro from first with the game's first run.
Emmanuel knotted the game at 1-1 in the fourth when Skey cracked a leadoff single and was lifted for senior pinch-runner Brianna Ong (Coventry, R.I.). Two batters later, senior backstop Casey Sheehan (Medway, Mass.) poked an opposite-field single into right field to bring in Ong from second to tie the game. The Saints threatened for more when junior right fielder Yuleska Ramirez-Tejeda (South Boston, Mass.) beat out an infield hit to put runners on the corners with one out. Castigliego bared down for Simmons and induced a foul pop-up behind the plate that landed in first year catcher Shannon McMahon's (El Cajon, Calif.) glove. McMahon came through again when Emmanuel looked to score on a double-steal, but the rookie catcher faked the throw to second and was able to get Sheehan to take one step too many towards the plate, enabling McMahon to pick her off of third with the final out of the frame.
The Sharks reclaimed the lead with a run in the fifth to take a 2-1 edge. Sophomore right fielder Danielle Carson (Ashland, Mass.) laced a one-out single to center and scored the go-ahead run on double into left center off the bat of Vann.
Simmons looked to tack on a run an inning later after Ortiz singled and sophomore pinch-runner Emily Barbella (Littleton, Mass.) was inserted to run. The second-year player advanced to second on a wild pitch, but was cut down trying to go to third on a fly out, when Ramirez-Tejeda's throw beat her to the base. Senior starting pitcher Megan Kieselback (Wethersfield, Conn.) struck out the final batter of the frame to keep it a one-run game.
The Sharks were in line for a seven-inning victory, but Ramirez-Tejeda reached on a two-out error to reach first and advanced to second on a bunt. Simmons recorded the second out with Burgos coming to the plate. The senior kept her collegiate career alive with a pop-up down the right field line that the Sharks second sacker sprinted to the line to make the catch, but the ball went off of her glove and Ramirez-Tejeda scored the tying run.
The Saints put together a rally in the eighth when they loaded the bases with two outs, but Castigliego came through with an inning-ending strikeout to keep it a tie game.