NEW ROCHELLE, NY – The Iona College softball program dropped a pair of games on Thursday afternoon and has been eliminated from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Softball Championship. Despite a pair of valiant efforts from their own pitchers, the Gaels bats were quelled by a pair of elite hurlers.
GAME ONE: Monmouth 2, Iona 1
In game four of the 2017 MAAC Softball championship, Monmouth junior Amanda Riley outdueled sophomore Alana Evans in an extra inning barn-burner. In a bout that pinned the two 2017 All-MAAC First Team selections against each other, the Gaels and Hawks recorded just three hits apiece. The two squads combined to strand eighteen baserunners.
The Hawks were able to squeeze by the Maroon & Gold in the top of the ninth on a solo homerun by sophomore outfielder Jasmine Higa. It was just her second home run of the season and ninth run driven home.
Riley fanned all her 11 strikeout victims via the swing-and-miss. Iona led the inning off with a hit nine times, but the Hawk hurler cranked down and kept the Gaels to just 1-for-22 with runners on base. The Gaels did not have a two-out hit all game and converted on just .217 of its advancement opportunities.
Monmouth scored its first run in the top of the second inning. Evans walked junior Alex Holzman and freshman Kayla Rosado to begin the frame. Senior Rachel Shotzbarger immediately cashed in with an RBI single to center. With runners on second and third and nobody out, Evans was able to dance out of more trouble by striking out three of the next four batters she faced.
Iona's run came across in the bottom half of the third; junior catcher Tori Danner, the 2017 MAAC Defensive Player of the Year, bleeped a single to right field, scoring sophomore right fielder Marisa Gergel. Turner advanced to third on the same play but was stranded after Riley retired senior shortstop Katie Newton and freshman designated player Jasmine Temple.
The Gaels had a chance to walk-off in the bottom of the seventh inning. With runners on first and second and one out, Riley retired Turner and Danner to preserve the 1-1 tie.
Senior Ashlyn Morris, Danner, and Newton totaled Iona's three hits. Morris and Gergel each walked twice; combined the two corner outfielders reached base five times in eight plate appearances.
The loss to Monmouth meant the Maroon & Gold returned to the diamond late Thursday afternoon against the No. 3 seed Marist Red Foxes with their season on the line.
GAME TWO: Marist 3, Iona 0
With Evans out of commission after throwing 155 pitches against the Hawks, head coach Melissa Inouye turned to freshman Marnie Skinner in the circle. The MAAC All-Rookie Team honoree got bounced around early by the conference's top offense; the Red Foxes pounced for three runs in the top of the first, and that'd be all they needed as the late afternoon unfolded.
Senior Janna Korak lined a 1-0 pitch to right center, puncturing the gap and scoring sophomore Casey Page and junior Miranda Perez. The Red Fox right fielder advanced to third as Gergel threw the ball into home attempting to get Perez. Senior Rebecca Freeman grounded out to second base in the following at-bat, bringing home Korak and giving Marist a 3-0 edge.
Skinner settled down after the early road bump, allowing just three hits in her final five innings of work. However, her efforts were over shadowed by the pitching performance of Marist senior lefty Jessica Van Alphen.
Van Alphen went the full seven innings, allowing two hits and one walk while striking out six. She faced 28 batters, inducing six fly ours and nine groundouts.
Newton had both hits, each being groundballs to the right side. Her first came in the bottom of the second inning after Danner began the inning by being hit by a pitch. After sophomore Kimberly Chiaparelli successfully laid down a sacrifice, Iona had the bases loaded with two outs with senior Kelsey Long coming up to bad. Van Alphen clamped down, striking out Long and preserving the three-run lead.
The Maroon & Gold had a second bases loaded chance in the bottom of the fourth. Newton began the attack with a single between first and second. Evans, starting as the designated player, reached on an error and was pinch ran for by junior Courtney Miller. Sophomore Hailey Thompson was hit by a pitch, setting the table once again for Long, this time with one out. In a mirror moment of the second, Van Alphen escaped danger getting Long on strikes and inducing a first-pitch groundout from Morris.
The Gael bats were retired in order for the last three innings.
Over the course of the day's two games, Iona went a combined 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position, and 2-for-21 with runners on base.