Courtesy of Moravian Athletic Communications
EWING, N.J. --- The No. 8 Moravian College softball team posted a 9-1, six-inning win over Salisbury (Md.) University to win the NCAA Division III Ewing, New Jersey Regional hosted by The College of New Jersey and earn a spot in the NCAA DIII Super Regionals for the second time in four years.
The Greyhounds, now 36-6 on the year, will face Rowan (N.J.) University in the Super Regional beginning on Friday, May 18 at Rowan with game times to be announced. The Hounds, playing Salisbury for the third time in the regional final, earned their fifth regional title and will be playing in the Super Regional for the second time since the NCAA switched to the format in 2015. Moravian is now 6-5 against Salisbury in NCAA Tournament action and 45-35 in 80 tournament games over 17 appearances. The program has played at least three NCAA games in 16 of its 17 trips to the NCAA Tournament.
"It is quite an accomplishment to come back through the loser's bracket to win the regional. It's not easy," stated Head Coach John Byrne. "It can also help to motivate you because there is no tomorrow. I think what this team did was realize that it is one more loss and put the stuff away for the year or career. I think it really resonated especially with our seniors. They really stepped it up and said we are not done this weekend, and that is what I saw coming out of that. In a strange way, that first loss might have been the best thing to happen to us.
"But still, you've got to come out and do a heck of a job to beat a team like Salisbury twice in the same day when they are in the leader seat like they were," continued Byrne. "I couldn't be more proud of the way they came out and played. We hit the ball well and Josie was on in the last 24 hours with one of the most impressive pitching performances that I've seen in my career. Our defense played well and really stepped it up. Hopefully we're hitting our stride and we're looking forward to next weekend."
Senior Josie Novak was selected as the Regional's Most Outstanding Player after picking up her third straight win to improve to 20-3 on the season and move into sole possession of second place in school history with her 76th career victory. Novak allowed one run on six hits to go with five strikeouts as she recorded 42 strikeouts in 30 innings of action in the regional while appearing in all five of Moravian's contests.
"Losing the first game of the tournament definitely hurt but we used it as motivation to come back and beat Salisbury twice today," Novak said. "I think I was able to pitch so well because the thought of my senior year ending led to what would hurt more, my shoulder from pitching so much or my career being over. I chose to endure the pain."
The Blue and Grey also had three players selected to the Regional All-Tournament Team including senior catcher Janae Matos, junior center fielder Kat Spilman and freshman right fielder Brooke Wehr. Matos set a school record with 19 putouts Moravian's win over Johnson & Wales (R.I.) University while Spilman and Wehr each connected on two home runs during the Regional.
"I looked at our team halfway through the year and told them that we're just as good if not better than the team we were our freshman year," noted Matos. "Just watching this team grow and develop over the last two weeks is something that is indescribable like Jean said. I proud of every player on our team. We're super exited to get back the Super Regionals where we feel we belong and to take it one step further.
"We just have to take it one game at a time from hear on our and not look past any opponent," Matos continued. "I think we may have come into the regional a little scared but I think now that we have some NCAA experience under our belts, especially the freshmen and sophomores, I think we're ready to move forward and play the best softball yet and leave everything out there because at the end of the day it is now or never."
The Greyhounds had seven hits in the championship game with junior third baseman Madison Shaneberger going 3-for-4 with three RBIs. Freshman shortstop Maddisen Bieber was 2-for-2 with a pair of doubles while senior first baseman Jean Markovic had a pair of doubles.
"It is an indescribable feeling to get back to the Super Regional, especially as a senior class after last year," commented Markovic. "We set a goal to get back to the NCAA Tournament. We're all really excited about next weekend."
Moravian took a 2-0 lead with a pair of runs in the bottom of the second inning. Markovic drew a one-out walk and moved to third on a double down the left field line by Bieber. Junior second baseman Kaela Kane followed up with a two-RBI single up the middle to score Markovic and Bieber.
The Greyhounds extended their lead to 6-0 in the bottom of the third inning with four runs. Junior left fielder Julia DeMarco, Spilman and Matos drew walks to start the inning before a fourth straight base on balls by freshman second baseman Shannon Brogan pushed DeMarco across the plate. Shaneberger connected on an RBI single that brought Spilman home while Markovic ripped a two-RBI single down the left field line to score sophomore pinch runner Emily Stanilious and Brogan.
The Hounds added a run in the bottom of the fifth inning when Shaneberger led off with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Markovic and scored on an RBI double to left center by Bieber.
The Sea Gulls would get onto the scoreboard with a leadoff home run in the top of the sixth inning to cut Moravian's advantage to 7-1.
Moravian finished off in the bottom of the sixth inning with two runs to reach the NCAA run rule. Spilman walked for the fourth time in the game, tying the school record, and she moved to second when Brogan reached on an error. After a wild pitch, Shaneberger ripped a two-RBI single down the left field line to score Spilman and Brogan and set off the celebration on the field for winning the regional title.