MONTCLAIR, N.J. - The Haverford College softball team conlcuded its banner season by taking the region's top seed, and the nation's 12th-ranked team, Montclair State University, to the brink on Sunday in the regional final. The Fords narrowly lost to the Red Hawks, 2-0, and finished the year with 29 wins, the most in program history.
Haverford (29-11) won its first two NCAA Tournament games over the weekend by topping Wheaton (Mass.) College 6-2 on Friday and blanking Farmingdale State 8-0 on Saturday. The Centennial Conference champions also posted the program's longest winning streak by winning 10 consecutive games from April 19 to May 9.
The Fords battled No.12 Montclair (39-6) to a scoreless tie through the first five innings of Sunday's regional final. Starting pitcher Sara Tauriello stymied the Red Hawks' offense by allowing just three hits through the first five innings and striking out seven batters. The sophomore did not allow more than one hit in any of the first five innings and only allowed three batters to reach base.
Montclair's starting pitcher Alex Hill equaled Tauriello's pitching performance by limiting Haverford to one hit through the first five frames and kept the Fords off the board. The NCAA leader in strikeouts and shutouts fanned nine of the first 16 batters she faced as the game headed to the sixth locked at zero.
The Red Hawks broke the scoreless deadlock in the bottom of the sixth by tallying two unearned runs. Brooke Powers led the inning off with a double and was sacrificed over to third on a bunt from Alisha Cumberton. Tauriello got the next batter, Dana Amato, to ground out to Dayle Comerford at first base, but Comerford's throw missed her mark and Powers slid in safely to put Montclair up 1-0. The Red Hawks tacked on an insurance run and forced the Fords to bring in pitcher Emily Winesett.
Winesett got out of the jam by getting Brianna Davidson to ground out and sent the game into the seventh and final inning with the Fords trailing, 2-0.
Jen DiCandilo singled in the top of the seventh to bring the tying run for the Fords to the plate, but Hill notched the final outs to give host Montclair the 2-0 victory and regional title.
Tauriello allowed just four hits over 5.2 innings pitched while striking out seven. Hill surrendered just two hits and struck out 10 batters in the complete-game shutout.
Jill Schnall went 1-for-3 in the game and reached base in both games against Montclair over the weekend.
Tauriello and Schnall were joined by Lauren Touey on the regional all-tournament team. Schnall collected five hits and played stellar defense at second base, while Touey's four RBIs against Farmingdale and four-hit weekend helped her earn all-tournament status. Tauriello started in three of the Fords' four contests in the tournament. She struck out 13 batters and allowed just 12 hits in 16.2 innings of work.
Not only did the Fords set the program record for wins in a season in 2014, but head coach Jen Ward has now led Haverford to 20-win seasons in six out of the past nine years.