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SOFTBALL: USJ Claims First GNAC Championship Since 2000, Tops Both No. 1 Seeds on Saturday



Saturday, May 4, 2019 (hosted by #1S Simmons, Daly Field)
Game 7: #2S Saint Joseph (Conn.) 5, #1N Emmanuel 3 - 10:00 AM
Game 8: #1S Simmons 5, #3N Saint Joseph's of Maine 3 - 12:30 PM (SCJ eliminated)
Game 9: #1S Simmons 3, #1N Emmanuel 2 (9 innings) - 3 PM (Emmanuel eliminated) 
Game 10: #2S Saint Joseph (Conn.) 3, #1S Simmons 0 - 5:30 PM (Simmons eliminated) 

NO. 2S Saint Joseph (Conn.) 5, NO. 1N Emmanuel 3

BOSTON, Mass.— Behind another solid all-around performance on the mound and in the field, the University of Saint Joseph (USJ) softball team defeated the top-seed in the GNAC North, Emmanuel College (EC), 5-3, advancing to the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Championship, on a crisp but comfortable Saturday morning at Daly Field.

The Blue Jays (26-17), the number two seed in the south, are now 3-0 in the GNAC Softball Tournament, and automatically advance to the championship game. It is their second GNAC Championship game appearance, the first since they won it all in 2000.

The Saints (25-13) are 1-1 in this double elimination tournament, and await the winner of Saint Joseph's College (SJC) and Simmons University (SU). The winner of that game will face USJ in the finals.

It was once again a battle of the best in the circle, as the Saints' ace, senior pitcher Megan Kieselback (Wethersfield, Conn.) who led the GNAC in ERA (1.99), wins (11), and strikeouts (109), dueled it out with junior pitcher Amaria Sharon (Tolland, Conn.), who was third in ERA (2.48), and tied for third in wins (10). Sharon shook the seats in the Blue Jay dugout with a three-run homerun to left field. She then delivered in the circle, throwing a 90-pitch complete game in route to victory. This is Kieselback's first loss since March 30, snapping an 11-game win streak:

Amaria Sharon (W, 13-5) 7 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 5 K on 94 pitches (72 strikes)

Megan Kieselback (L, 12-6) 1.1 IP, 6 H, 5 R (4 ER) on 27 pitches (18 strikes) 

The Blue Jays had several contributions at the plate. Senior third baseman Kara Klimaszewski (Naugatuck, Conn.), and sophomore second baseman Michelle Woodruff (Southington, Conn.) both added an RBI single and a stolen base, while senior center fielder Morgan Skoly (Vernon, Conn.), and sophomore first baseman Amanda Thiel (Torrington, Conn.) hit a single each. Junior designated player McKenna Driscoll (Bristol, Conn.) finished 2-for-3 with two singles.

Senior shortstop Audrey Esakoff (Ventura, Calif.) and junior second baseman Kerry Sendrick (Medway, Mass.) were 2-for-3 with an RBI. Junior right fielder Yuleska Ramirez-Tejeda (South Boston, Mass.) added an RBI triple for EC.

The Blue Jays, who were swept by Emmanuel in a doubleheader on March 31, took lessons learned from that day, and found a way to get ahead early. Sharon kicked things off by ripping a liner to left, which snuck past senior left fielder Olivia Burgos (Newington, Conn.). Sharon then hustled all the way to third. Klimaszewski added a blooper just over Esakoff's reaching glove to score Sharon. 1-0 USJ.

Sharon had a perfect game going through three innings, thanks to an on-point changeup, and some all-out fielding. Freshman catcher Lindsey O'Bright (New Britain, Conn.) capped the second inning with a diving catch on a short popup down the first base line. Skoly showed quick feet in center, as she snagged a ball on the run in the third. Sharon whiffed several batters in between.

USJ did its damage in the bottom of the second. Skoly led off with a bunt single, beating a close throw to first. Thiel followed with a single to center. With runners on first and second, USJ once again showed their discipline at the plate, as freshman left fielder Samantha Iannone (Wallingford, Conn.) hit a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners. With two down, Woodruff stepped in with full confidence, as she smacked a single through the right side to give the Blue Jays a 2-0 lead. With runners on second and third after a Woodruff steal, Sharon blasted a 1-1 pitch to left field. It was her third homerun of the season, and her first career postseason bomb. The three-run blast ended Kieselback's day early. 5-0 USJ. 

Sophomore pitcher Mikaela Montemagni (Chicopee, Mass.) was strong in relief for the Saints, avoiding any trouble the rest of the way. The Blue Jays had just two hits against Montemagni in four and two thirds. She also struck out one.

Burgos broke Sharon's perfect game with a double to lead off the fourth, as the Saints tried to get the comeback underway. A sacrifice fly from freshman third baseman Renae Lacroix (Cumberland, R.I.) moved Burgos to third. Sophomore right fielder Alessandra Milardo (Plantsville, Conn.) hustled in for a catch to get out one. Sharon then got a big strikeout on the changeup to get two away, but a Sendrick double to center field drove in the first run for EC. 5-1 USJ after four.

One by one, Sharon continued to retire the side. With three outs to go, the Saints launched their final attack. Sendrick hit a leadoff single. After Russo snagged an out in foul territory, a fielder's choice made it two outs and a runner still at first. All seemed well until Ramirez-Tejeda hit a two-strike triple, driving in a run. Esakoff then added a bloop single to make it 5-3. The Saints refused to go away, but Sharon took a few deep breaths, and forced a popout on the infield to seal the deal. USJ is now one win away from GNAC supremacy.

Courtesy of USJ Athletics Communications.

NO. 1S Simmons 5, NO. 3N Saint Joseph's (Maine) 3

BOSTON, Mass. – #3N Saint Joseph's College (13-23) suffered a season-ending 5-3 loss at the hands of #1S Simmons University (21-22) in an elimination game of the 2019 Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Softball Tournament at Daly Field on Saturday afternoon.


Simmons grabbed a 2-0 lead out of the gates with three hits in the top of the first and Saint Joseph's responded with a run in the bottom of the frame when junior second baseman Libby Pomerleau (Limerick, Maine) singled and scored on a groundout off the bat of senior first baseman Melodie Bailey (Lebanon, Maine).

The Sharks added three runs off four hits in the top of the third, but the damage could have been more severe, as junior Caitlyn King (Old Town, Maine) struck out Lauren Del Vacchio (Murrieta, Calif.) with the bases loaded to end the inning.

Freshman Camryn LaPierre (Westbrook, Maine) and Bailey registered run-scoring singles in the bottom of the fifth to cut the Simmons lead to 5-3, but the Monks were unable to mount another offensive threat in their final two turns at the bat.


  • SJC starter Kate Whitney falls to 7-11 on the season after yielding five runs on six hits and three walks over 2.1 innings
  • King tossed 4.2 shutout innings with two K's and four hits allowed
  • Simmons freshman starter Maddie Castigliego (Bristol, R.I.) improves to 13-6 after giving up three runs (two earned) off six hits with a pair of strikeouts in 4.2 innings
  • Sophomore Hailey Yabroudy (Amherst, N.H.) picked up her first save of the season after allowing two hits and a walk with two K's in 2.1 innings


  • Junior left fielder Madisyn Charest (Sidney, Maine) went 3-3 with a run scored
  • Junior third baseman Kaylee Burns (Saco, Maine) was 1-3 with a double
  • Bailey was 1-4 with a pair of RBI
  • For Simmons, Ivy Vann (Bend, Ore.) was 2-3 with a walk and freshman Alex Morang (Windham, Maine) went 2-3 with an RBI

Courtesy of SJC Athletics Communications.

NO. 1S Simmons 3, NO. 1N Emmanuel 2 - 9 innings

BOSTON, Mass. - Sophomore Marissa Santoro (Franklin, Mass.) delivered an RBI single to right field in the ninth inning to give Simmons University a 3-2 walk-off win over Emmanuel College in the 2019 GNAC Softball Tournament loser's bracket final. The Sharks advance to the GNAC Championship series against University of Saint Joseph (CT) while the Saints season comes to an end with an overall record of 25-14.

How it Happened

  • The Sharks struck first with a run in the second to go ahead 1-0. Sophomore Marissa Santoro (Franklin, Mass.) led off the frame with a four-pitch walk and came around to score on an RBI double to right centerfield by freshman Alex Morang (Windham, Maine).
  • Emmanuel evened the score at 1-1 in the fourth as senior Ashley Skey (Brookline, N.H.) led off the inning with a single to right. Senior Briana Ong (Coventry, R.I.) came on to run and moved over to second on well executed sacrifice bunt by freshman Grace Orcutt (Lexington, Mass.). Ong came around to score on an RBI single to center by senior catcher Casey Sheehan to tie the game.
  • Later in fourth, the Saints threatened to take the lead with runners on the corners with just one out but Simmons freshman Maddie Castigliego (Bristol, R.I.) induced a pop out for the second out of the frame before the EC runner at third was picked off by first year catcher Shannon McMahon (El Cajon, Calif.) to extinguish the threat.
  • Simmons regained the lead in the fifth as sophomore outfielder Ivy Vann (Bend, Ore.) connected on an RBI double to left center to give the Sharks a 2-1 cushion.
  • The Sharks threatened in the sixth as senior Dom Ortiz (Lawrence, Mass.) led off with a single and her pinch runner, sophomore Emily Barbella (Littleton, Mass.), moved over to second on a passed ball. EC senior hurler Megan Kieselback(Wethersfield, Conn.) was able to induce a fly out to right and junior right fielder Yuleska Ramirez-Tejeda (Cambridge, Mass.) doubled up the Sharks with a laser throw to third to catch Barbella trying to tag on the play to cede the threat.
  • In the seventh, Emmanuel battled to extend the game by tying the score at 2-2.  Yuleska Ramirez-Tejeda (Cambridge, Mass.) reached with the help of an errant Simmons throw to start the inning and moved over to third on an aggressive base running play following a sac bunt by senior shortstop Audrey Esakoff (Ventura, Calif.). The Saints were down to their final out when senior left fielder Olivia Burgos (Newington, Conn.) delivered with a looping single just out of the reach of the Simmons second baseman down the right field line to drive home Ramirez-Tejeda and even the score at 2-2.


  • Castigliego picked up the win going the distance for the Sharks in a gutsy effort, scattering 11 hits and allowing just the two runs (one earned) while striking out five.
  • Kieselback suffered the loss to end her year with a 12-7 overall record in the circle.
  • EC seniors Ashley Skey (Brookline, N.H.), Casey Sheehan (Medway, Mass.) and Burgos along with junior centerfielder Sarah Hoisl (West Hartford, Conn.) all collected two hits on the afternoon.
  • Morang was the line Shark to collect multiple hits in the win.
  • The 25 wins for Emmanuel was one shy of the program record of 26 from the 2016 season.

Courtesy of Emmanuel Athletics Communications.

NO. 2S Saint Joseph (Conn.) 3, NO. 1S Simmons 0

BOSTON, Mass.— All year, the motto was 'play anywhere, win anywhere', and the University of Saint Joseph(USJ) softball team did just that, winning four-straight pressure-packed playoff games to become the 2019 Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Champions, on a cool Saturday evening at Daly Field.

With the victory, USJ earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament, following the first shutout in the GNAC Championship game since 2013. The official tournament selection show is slated for Monday, May 6 at 1:00 p.m. on

The Blue Jays (27-17), who defeated Simmons University (SU), 3-0, in the finale, won their final six games of the season, including going a perfect 4-0 in the GNAC Tournament. The win marks USJ's third GNAC Championship in school history (women's basketball 1997-98, softball 2000) and the second for softball. It is the first GNAC Title under 14-year head coach Jim McKinnon.

"We had one goal at the start of the season. Get to the NCAA's, and we did. Every one of these players did something on this team to help us get to this point." Said McKinnon.

"We were just hoping to go out with a bang, and this was all we could have asked for, and a whole lot more," said junior pitcher Amaria Sharon (Tolland, Conn.), who was unconscious throughout the tournament, tossing four complete games, including Saturday night's seven-inning shutout against a Simmons team that averaged nearly six runs a game all season (and had only been shutout once). Sharon was awarded the tournament's Most Valuable Player. 

Senior shortstop Isabella Russo (Southington, Conn.), senior center fielder Morgan Skoly (Vernon, Conn.) and sophomore right fielder Alessandra Milardo (Plantsville, Conn.) were selected to the all tournament team. 

Sharon grabbed her 14th win of the season (14-5), allowing six hits in a complete game shutout. Sophomore pitcher Hailey Yabroudy (Amherst, N.H.) took the loss (7-9) despite a well-rounded performance (7 H, 3 R, 1 ER, K). At the plate, it was Milardo who stepped up when it mattered most, despite struggling in the morning semifinal game against Emmanuel College (EC). She kept her head high, and it showed, hitting 2-for-3 with a double, single, stolen base, and two runs scored. Sophomore first baseman Amanda Thiel (Torrington, Conn.) added a RBI single, while Sharon finished 1-for-3 with a single and a run. Russo, Skoly, and freshman left fielder Samantha Iannone (Wallingford, Conn.) all added a hit a piece. Six different Sharks had a single, including left fielder Ivy Vann (Bend, Ore.), and freshman designated player Maddie Castigliego (Bristol, R.I.), who were also recognized on the all-tournament team.

The first two innings on defense for USJ were highlighted by several tremendous plays at shortstop from Russo, who made a great diving 6-3 putout on one knee to save a single. Sharon's changeup was as it was all tournament long; virtually unhittable.

In the bottom of the second, Milardo smacked a leadoff single to center. Skoly followed it with a pop bunt that dropped in between the pitcher and the first base line. Perfect placement put Skoly on first. With one out and Iannone up, the Blue Jays pulled a few tricks out of their pockets, performing a double steal. Both ended up safe, and when the throw to third got away, Milardo took off for home, scoring run number one. Despite an Iannone single to follow, USJ would not get anymore across in the inning, as the Sharks dialed in defensively, forcing a pop out and ground out to close the inning. 1-0 USJ.

SU made a great charge in USJ's shutdown inning; a two-out rally with back-to-back-to-back singles, loading the bases for senior first baseman Dom Ortiz (Lawrence, Mass.). Ortiz let it fly off the barrel of the bat to center field, but it was grabbed by Skoly, who came sprinting in for a pivotal third out.

After a pair of 1-2-3 innings, Saint Joe's tacked on their second run, kicked off by Milardo once again. A leadoff double gave the Blue Jays some options. Skoly moved her to third with a sacrifice bunt, leaving a runner on third with one away for Thiel. She wasted no time, finding the first pitch she liked, and sliced an RBI single to right field. The Sharks showed poise once more, keeping it at just a run. 2-0 USJ after four.

A leadoff single by SU was not enough to faze the Blue Jays, who grabbed two force outs at second, and a great lineout catch from Iannone in left to end the top of the fifth. In the bottom half, Sharon hit a leadoff single to left. Senior third baseman Kara Klimaszewski (Naugatuck, Conn.) showed her experience with a well-placed bunt just a few feet in front of home plate, moving Sharon to second. Russo stepped in next with one away and hit a ground ball. However, as she raced for a photo finish at first, the throw went wide, and Sharon jumped on it, scoring easily to make it 3-0.

Sharon and company went back to work, now six outs from glory. The sixth was all Klimaszewski, who despite not hitting the way she would've hoped in the tournament, showed great leadership on the field, making many key plays at third. She picked up three straight 5-3 putouts to complete the sixth, each throw a bullet to first with ease.

The Sharks were down to their last three outs. A quick groundout put one away. A single from freshman third baseman Alex Morang (Windham, Maine), gave SU a fighting chance. Freshman shortstop Allie Mulhern (Westford, Mass.) stepped into the box. In what seemed like half a second, Mulhern fouled into a spectacular double play, as freshman catcher Lindsey O'Bright (New Britain, Conn.) sacrificed her body to make the play, and then had the IQ to throw the ball to first to get the double play before Morang could retreat. The Blue Jay dugout erupted, racing to the circle to mob Sharon and fellow teammates. 

"It's something they are always going to remember. They'll have that banner up in the gym every time they come back." McKinnon said.

All-Tournament Team
Madisyn Charest - Saint Joseph College (ME)
Caitlyn King - Saint Joseph College (ME)
Megan Kieselback - Emmanuel College
Kerry Sendrick – Emmanuel College"
Ivy Vann – Simmons University
Maddie Castigliego – Simmons University
Hailey Yabroudy – Simmons University
Isabella Russo – University of Saint Joseph
Alessandra Milardo – University of Saint Joseph
Morgan Skoly – University of Saint Joseph
Amaria Sharon University of Saint Joseph (MVP) 

In the Circle: 28 IP, 1.25 ERA (22 H [5 XBH], 6 R, 5 ER, 13 K, BB) **4 CG, 2 S/O
At the Plate: .417 AVG (HR, 2 2B, 4 RBI)

The Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) is an NCAA Division III association made up of 13 member institutions and over 3,000 student-athletes across the New England region. Founded in 1995, the GNAC annually sponsors and administers 20 championships, while balancing academic integrity, athletic opportunity and community involvement in an effort to enhance the student-athlete experience. 

– #TheGNAC –