BOSTON, Mass. – The Simmons University softball team was shut out by University of Saint Joseph (Conn.), 3-0, this evening in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference Championship at Daly Field in Brighton, Mass. The Sharks finish their campaign at 22-23, while the Blue Jays have won six straight and 10 of their last 12 to improve to 27-17 on the season. USJ earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Championship Tournament following the first shutout in the GNAC Championship game since 2013 and its first crown since 2000.
The shutout marked only the second time this season that the Sharks have failed to score a run and the first time since March 6 when they fell to Aurora University, 10-0. It was also just the fifth shutout in a GNAC Softball contest to decide the championship.
Junior starting pitcher Amaria Sharon (Tolland, Conn.) fired a six-hit shutout to lead USJ and also struck out one batter and issued no walks in the game to improve to 14-5. She also went 1-3 with a run scored and finished the tournament with four complete-game victories for USJ, while posting a 1.25 earned run average to go with 13 strikeouts and just one walk issued in 28 innings. She also hit .417 (5-12) with a pair of doubles, a home run, four RBI and five runs scored, en-route to being named the Tournament Most Valuable Player.
Junior center fielder Lauren Del Vacchio (Murrieta, Calif.), sophomore left fielder Ivy Vann (Bend, Ore.) and first year designated player Maddie Castigliego (Bristol, R.I.), first year catcher Shannon McMahon (El Cajon, Calif.) and classmates Alex Morang (Windham, Maine) and Allie Mulhern (Westford, Mass.) all had one single each for Simmons.
Sophomore first base Amanda Thiel (Torrington, Conn.) was 1-3 with a run batted in for the Blue Jays and sophomore Alessandra Milardo (Plantsville, Conn.) was 2-3 with a pair of runs scored.
Saint Joseph scored single runs in the second, fourth and fifth innings for all the runs it would need.
Milardo and senior center fielder Morgan Skoly (Vernon, Conn.) each singled to open the second inning. Milardo scored on a double-steal when the throw to third was off-line to allow her to score and give the Blue Jays a 1-0 edge.
Milardo opened the fourth with a double and came around to score ahead of Thiel single to make it 2-0 in favor of USJ. The Blue Jays tacked on an insurance run in the fifth after Sharon singled, went to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a wide throw off an infield ground ball to the right side of the infield.
The Sharks hoped to rally in the seventh when Morang smacked a one-out single, but Mulhern's bunt attempt went up and into first year catcher Lindsey O'Bright's (New Britain, Conn.) glove, before she threw down to first to double up Morang at first base for the final two outs of the championship game.
Sophomore Hailey Yabroudy (Amherst, N.H.) (7-8) was the tough-luck losing pitcher for Simmons, giving up three runs (one earned) on seven hits and a strikeout in six full innings.
Joining Sharon on the All-Tournament Team were the USJ trio of Skoly, Milardo and Isabella Russo, while Vann, Castigliego and Yabroudy were all named for Simmons. Madisyn Charest and Caitlyn King from Saint Joseph's College (Maine) joined Megan Kieselback and Kerry Sendrick from Emmanuel College.