MANCHESTER, N.H. - The Saint Michael's College softball team won the three-game season series from regional power Southern New Hampshire University thanks to a 5-4 Northeast-10 Conference triumph on Tuesday at SNHU Softball Field. The Purple Knights, playing the home team, improved to 3-11 overall while off to their first 3-2 NE10 start since 2007. The Penmen, who were receiving votes toward last week's National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) national poll, are 15-12 and 1-6. Southern New Hampshire won the 2016 NCAA East 1 Regional Tournament and finished as super regional runner-up during its third consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Saint Michael's went 2-1 this season against the Penmen, splitting a twinbill last week, when it also halved a doubleheader versus 2016 NCAA East 1 Regional Tournament runner-up Le Moyne College. The Purple Knights won their second season series ever from Southern New Hampshire, having gone 2-0 in 2001, but claimed their initial season series victory since the Penmen rose to national prominence and the NE10 went to three-game series, all of which occurred within the last four years. The Purple and Gold is 3-3 against Southern New Hampshire since last season after losing 21 of the previous 22 meetings.
First-year Torie Rathwell (Guilderland, N.Y./Guilderland) came on in relief to earn the win, allowing two runs on six hits in six innings. She walked three and struck out two. At the plate, she doubled in her lone at bat while scoring one run, driving in one, walking once and being hit by a pitch once. Senior Caroline Staples (Stoughton, Mass./Fontbonne Academy), who hit a walk-off sac fly at Le Moyne on Sunday, came up with a big two-run double while scoring a run. First-year Julia Sevigny (Rocky Hill, Conn./Rocky Hill) walked twice and drove in a run.
Junior Sarah Lavallee hit a solo home run and walked twice for the Penmen, and sophomore Erin Garczynski went 2-for-4 as the lone player in the game with multiple hits. First-year Maddy Barone, the first of three pitchers, took the loss after allowing four runs on two hits with four walks in 2.1 innings.
Southern New Hampshire utilized two hits, two errors, two hit batsmen, a wild pitch and a walk to plate two runs in the first inning. After a leadoff single, junior Danielle Brown (Vergennes, Vt./Vergennes Union) retired the next two batters before the cleanup hitter hit a foul pop, but a Purple Knight dropped the ball, and the next four Penmen all reached base. First-year Hannah Neverett's RBI single scored one unearned run before another came home on an outfield miscue.
Saint Michael's responded in the home half, as sophomore Fallon Tierney (Reading, Mass./Reading Memorial) singled with one down before Rathwell drove an RBI double to left field with two out. During her first two innings in the circle, Rathwell pitched around two singles in the second and two walks in the third to post shutout frames, and the Purple Knights plated four runs on two hits and five bases on balls in the third inning. Staples' two-run double put the visitors up for good, and first-year Danielle Markowski (Ellington, Conn./Ellington) followed with an RBI knock. Sevigny drew a walk with the bases loaded to force in another run and make it 5-2.
While senior reliever Nicole Gubellini was amid setting down 11 of the final 12 Purple Knight hitters, only plunking Rathwell in the fourth inning, her teammates were trying to stage a comeback. Lavallee homered in the fifth inning to cut the deficit to 5-3, and Garczynski led off the seventh with a single before moving to third on senior Jessica Torsiello's double. Lavallee walked to load the bases with no one out before first-year third baseman Katie Terban (Georgetown, Mass./Saint Mary's) cut down a runner at the plate on Neverett's grounder. First-year Gabriella Vachon followed with a sacrifice fly to center, putting runners at the corners with two down in a one-run game, but senior second baseman Christina Brazeau (Warwick, R.I./Saint Mary Academy-Bay View) smothered the next batter's grounder and tagged second just ahead of the charging runner to end the game.
The Purple Knights open their home schedule on Thursday by hosting Merrimack College for a 3 p.m. doubleheader.