An old sports adage says that it's tough to beat a team three times in a season.
The Norwich University softball team found that to be painfully true on Wednesday afternoon after eighth-seeded Suffolk University shocked the No. 1-seeded Cadets 4-1 for an astonishing upset in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Tournament First Round. Norwich had beaten Suffolk 6-3 and 9-4 on March 29 during the Cadets' program-record 19-game winning streak.
After a historic regular season run that culminated with Norwich (25-9) winning its first-ever GNAC title, the Cadets' powerful lineup that led the league in runs scored was stymied by a strong head wind and the right arm of Suffolk sophomore pitcher Sarah Chasse.
Chasse surrendered just one hit while walking five and striking out five to improve to 8-8. She also helped Suffolk avenge last year's GNAC First Round loss at Norwich where the Cadets tagged Chasse for five runs in less than four innings en route to an 8-1 victory.
Suffolk (14-23) on the other hand had no issues getting to NU sophomore ace Corinne Baita (Rochester, N.H.). The Rams touched up Baita for 11 hits with every batter but two recording at least one hit. Junior catcher Erin McAndrews and sophomore shortstop Nicole Rosa led the way for the Rams each going 3-for-4. McAndrews was especially lethal notching two doubles, a RBI and scored two of Suffolk's four runs from the third spot in the order.
Despite not recording a hit until the bottom of the fourth inning, Norwich was able to push across a run in the bottom of the second inning when senior second baseman Noel Byers (Iron Mountain, Mich.) scored from second base on a throwing error by Suffolk's third baseman after Melissa Rome (Enfield, Conn.) slapped a ground ball towards her.
The Cadets threatened again in the fourth when they got their lone hit from sophomore centerfielder Kelly Travers (Whitman, Mass.) when she smoked a shot right back up the middle that glanced off Chasse's glove and rolled to second base allowing Travers to reach first easily.
Byers was then hit by a pitch and both runners advanced a base on a wild pitch. Chasse got Angie Hershberger to strike out swinging but then walked Briana Day to load the bases.
However, the Rams' pitcher bore down from there getting Rome to ground into a fielder's choice with Rosa gunning down Travers at home for the second out. Then Suffolk's left fielder Julia Ludvigsen made a shoe-string catch on a soft blooper down the line to rob junior first baseman Erin Clark (Newbury, Vt.) of a hit and a couple of sure Norwich runs.
Suffolk used the momentum off Ludvigsen's catch and finally got to Baita in the top of the fifth. Chasse opened the inning by singling to center field. Rosa then grounded out to Baita but advanced Chasse over to second. McAndrews then laced a double just inside the third base bag for a double that scored the speedy Chasse easily. McAndews advanced to third on the throw and scored what would prove to be the game-winning run on a sacrifice fly to right field by Ludvigsen.
Suffolk added two more runs in the top of the seventh when they loaded the bases with three straight singles by Rosa, McAndrews and Ludvigsen. Alicia Gonnella then grounded into a fielder's choice with Rosa out at home for the second out. However, Meredith Bell came through with the clutch hit by lofting a line drive over Clark's head at first base that fell in just inside the line and scored two runs easily to push the Rams' lead to 4-1.
Norwich went quietly in the bottom of the seventh with Clark grounding out to short, Baita striking out swinging and Belcher grounding out to shortstop.
Baita fell to 12-7 on the year after giving up 11 hits and four earned runs while striking out five and walking one.
The Cadets will now await and see if they are awarded an ECAC Tournament bid to see if their historic 2013 season will continue.
Suffolk advances to the GNAC final four weekend now which will be played at the highest-remaining seed and be a double-elimination format. Univ. of Saint Joseph beat Simmons and Saint Joseph's (Maine) beat Johnson & Wales in the other two completed first round matchups. No. 2-seed Emerson will host if it beats No. 7 Rivier at 8 p.m. tonight.
Courtesy: Norwich Athletics
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