BRONX, N.Y. - Fighting to the final pitch, the third seeded Saint Joseph's softball team battled to the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 Championship before falling to second seed Saint Louis, 11-8, Friday evening at Bahoshy Field.
Opening the day with a must-win game versus Dayton, the Hawks used a seven-run fourth inning to propell them to a 9-5 win. With the win,SJU head coach Terri Adams picked up her 200th career victory.
The Hawks struck first in the bottom of the third inning against Dayton. With center fielder Maria Ficca at second and two outs, left fielder Melissa Ruf delivered for Saint Joseph's with a double over the center fielder's head to plate Ficca and give SJU a 1-0 lead.
Dayton tied the game a 1-1 in the top of the fourth as Tiffany Ricks scored from third on a sacrifice fly by Dana Trotta.
Catcher Hannah Dionne gave the Hawks the lead back in the bottom of the inning on a double to left center that allowed Nicole Palase to score easily from second. Third baseman Morgan Earling delivered a major blow in the next at-bat with a towering home run over the left field wall to give her team a 4-1 edge.
The next three SJU batters would reach safely as second baseman Sarah Yoos drew a bases-loaded walk that scored Ficca, while designated player Brandi Harkness grounded into a fielder's choice that allowed Isabella Picard to score from third to make it 6-1 in the next at-bat.
First baseman Ashley Alden would keep the momentum going with a two-run double off the left field wall that scored Yoos and Harkness to make it 8-1.
Dayton would strike for four runs in sixth, but Alden would give the Hawks an insurance run in the bottom of the inning with a deep home run to center field to give her team a 9-5 lead.
The Flyers would threaten in the seventh, but reliever Niki Carillo shut to door and helped preserve the win.
Sophomore pitcher Anna Lauterbach earned the win versus Dayton as she improved to 6-3 overall after allowing three earned runs over five innings, while striking out one. Carillo finished the game with two innings of work, allowing just two hits.
At the plate versus the Flyers, Alden finished 2-for-3 with three RBI and a run scored, while Earling added a pair of RBI and Ficca finished 1-for-1 with two runs scored.
In game two, Saint Louis' Kelsey Biggs put the Billikens ahead 2-0 on a two-run double to right field off game two starter Carillo in the bottom of the first.
Saint Joseph's would score twice in the top of the second, taking advantage of a bases-loaded hit by pitch and walk.With runners on all bases, Picard was hit by a pitch, allowing Alden to score from third to make it a one-run game. Ruf followed with a walk to score Dionne and tie the game 2-2.
The Billikens would regain the lead in the bottom of the second, scoring twice to take a 4-2 advantage. Elizabeth Everingham led off with a solo home run, while Lindsay Friedman would draw a bases-loaded walk to score Mackenzie Peter.
Alden would bring the Hawks back to within one, 4-3, on a RBI single to center that scored Harkness in the top of the third. Following a ground out, Picard delivered a two-run single to right center that scored Ficca and Palase to give SJU the lead, 5-4.
A RBI ground out to shortstop by Hailey Weavers scored Everningham in the third to tie it at 5-5.
The Billikens would regain the lead in the bottom of the fourth on a RBI ground out to first base by Brianna Lore that scored Elise Huffman from third. Following an intentional walk, Peter singled up the middle, allowing Friedman to score and put Saint Louis ahead, 7-5.
Saint Joseph's would battle back to tie it at 7-7 in the top of the sixth on a two-out single by Dionne that scored Harkness and Kerrie Kortmann. Ficca followed with a single down the left field line that allowed pinch runner Cyndi Wilson to score the go-ahead run.
Saint Louis would regain the lead in the bottom of the sixth, scoring four times to take an 11-8 lead. Everingham answered back with a two-run home run to center to put the Billikens ahead, 9-8. Saint Louis added to its lead on a sacrifice fly by Macie Wheeler, and took advantage of a fielding error by the Hawks to open a three-run advantage.
Saint Joseph's tried to rally in the top of the seventh, but Saint Louis thwarted the chance with a game-ending double play on a sharply lined ball to shortstop.
Harkness, Ruf, Picard, Kortmann and Dionne all picked up a pair of hits against Saint Louis, with Picard adding a team-high three RBI. In the circle, Lauterbach was the hard-luck loser, allowing five runs over 3.2 innings of work.
The Hawks finish the season 22-20 overall and advanced to the conference postseason for the seventh straight year. Seniors Earling and Ficca cap their careers having led the Hawks to four postseasons, two title games appearances and the program's first regular season A-10 title.