Softball Captures NJAC Championship

Little Falls, NJ (5/4/08) – Senior righthander Carolyn McCrea (Wharton, NJ / Jefferson), the two-time conference Pitcher of the Year, allowed just seven hits in 13 innings, including a no-hitter in the first game as top-seeded and No. 5 ranked Montclair State knocked off fourth-seeded The College of New Jersey twice to claim the 2008 New Jersey Athletic Conference Softball Championship at the MSU Softball Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

The Red Hawks needed to win twice to claim the league title, and got the first game 1-0 behind McCrea’s no-hitter before coming back with a 6-1 triumph to capture MSU’s first NJAC Championship since 1997 and its third overall. Montclair State, which improved to 42-4 this year also earned the conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA Division III Tournament as the Red Hawks will make their second consecutive appearance and the 18th in the program’s history. The championship also caps off Montclair State’s best conference season in school history as MSU went a perfect 18-0 during the regular season in league play and won 23 of 24 against teams from the NJAC.

Ellen Seavers (Ridgewood, NJ / Ridgewood) and Colleen Cawley Riverton, NJ / Holy Cross) each had two hits for the Lions, who entered the day 3-0 with all three victories coming via shutout. TCNJ, which fell to 26-17 with the two losses, was seeking its 12th NJAC Championship and first since 2000. The Lions will be among the teams vying for an at-large berth to the NCAA Division III Softball Championship, which gets underway on Thursday, May 8.

On Saturday, it was New Jersey recording a 1-0 win over MSU behind righthander Ashley Minervini (Cliffside Park, NJ / Cliffside Park), who out-dueled McCrea for the eight-inning win. On Sunday, it was McCrea’s turn as she tossed her third no-hitter of the season, striking out five while facing two batters over the minimum. McCrea set down 16 of the first 17 batters she faced, however Minervini was also up to challenge as she allowed just five hits, with three strikeouts and one walk.

After tossing three straight shutouts to open the tournament, Minervini was finally touched for run in bottom of the third ending a string of 23 consecutive scoreless tournament innings. The Red Hawks put runners on first and second with two out when Megan Durkin (West Orange, NJ / West Orange) laced a double to right field scoring Jennifer Jimenez (Linden, NJ / Linden) with what turned out to be the lone run of the game.

The rest was left to McCrea, who improved to 22-3 with the victory while Minervini fell to 15-9.

McCrea would get the call again in the second game and was just as sharp retiring the first six hitters before allowing a leadoff single by pitcher Alex Sietsma (Glen Rock, NJ / Glen Rock) in the bottom of the third. But that hit would be wiped away as MSU turned the first of two double plays in the game and McCrea fanned the next hitter to keep the game scoreless.

Montclair would then break on top in the fourth with two runs. Jimenez doubled to start the inning and after Minervini took over for Seitsma, Maureen Shockley (Magnolia, NJ / Triton) lined an RBI single to score the first run of the game and Kacie Neurouter (Wayne, NJ / Wayne Valley) added another on a fielder’s choice as Montclair went up 2-0.

The Red Hawks would extend that lead to 5-0 in the fifth. Whitney Driver (Montville, NJ / Morristown-Beard) and Gonzalez hit back-to-back doubles to start the inning with the latter getting the RBI. Two batters later, Durkin gapped a double to left center scoring two more. In the bottom of the inning, Rachel Greeby (Yardley, PA/Pennsbury) and Minervini singled with one out to get runners aboard, but again MSU’s defense came up with its second twin-killing to get out of the jam.

New Jersey would finally reach McCrea in the sixth as Kelly Armstrong (Jackson, NJ / Jackson Memorial) singled home a run, however the Red Hawks answered in the top of the seventh as Durkin collected her third RBI of the game with a single to give MSU the 6-1 lead.

McCrea finished with four strikeouts and a walk as she picked up her 23
rd win of the season and the 73rd of her career tying her with Dina DeAquino (1986-88) and Crystal Sweeney (2001-04). Sophomore Elia Persico (Marlton, NJ / Cherokee) would allow a hit in the seven before recording a ground out to shortstop for the final out as MSU nailed down the conference championship and automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Setisma dropped to 8-5 with the loss.

Jimenez and Durkin were each 2-for-4 for the Red Hawks.