May 5, 2012
It's been a fantastic weekend for Siena in the I-87 rivalry with Marist. Less than 24 hours after Siena lacrosse topped the Red Foxes in the MAAC Tournament, Siena softball swept Marist on Senior Day Saturday in Loudonville, N.Y., by scores of 4-3 and 12-6, rejoining the race for a MAAC Tournament bid in the process.
Unearned runs plagued the Saints (20-28, 8-6 MAAC) early on. Marist opened the scoring with two runs in the first off a Siena error. The Saints got two runs back on RBI singles by Nastasha Powlowsky in the third and fifth, and also got help from the same defense that betrayed it in the first.
Marist's Haley Birnbaum hit a deep drive to dead center in the fourth inning that appeared to be gone, but senior Lindsey McKeever leapt up at precisely the right time. While she was unable to catch it, she kept it in the ballpark and limited the damage to a long single. Marist did not score in the fourth, and ultimately the game went to extra innings.
The eighth inning went without incident, but there were plenty of fireworks in the ninth. The Red Foxes sent up Joelle Zahka as a pinch-hitter, and she homered to lead off the frame and give Marist a 3-2 lead. However, in the bottom of the ninth, Siena's Shannon Jones, who had already set Siena's single-season hits record earlier in the game, topped herself with a game-winning two-run blast to right field.
Marist came out strong in the nightcap, opening the scoring with an unearned run in the first. Siena got the run back in the second on an RBI double from Jen Duell, but Marist threatened to break the game open with two runs in the third.
However, the Saints offense once again surged at the right time. Megan Volz notched her third homer of the season in the third, a three-run shot that gave the Green and Gold a 4-3 advantage. Siena then added two more in the fourth on a single by Jessika - Jo Sandrini and a groundout by Nastasha Powlowsky, and suddenly had a 6-3 lead with Marist down to its last nine outs.
The Red Foxes seemed to have a rally left in them, and trimmed the gap to 6-5 in the fifth. But once more, Siena's offense caught fire. The Saints erupted for six runs in their half of the sixth, as Sandrini hit a three-run homer, Duell plated two with another double, and Mandy Ferro drove one in with a two-out single. Marist scored once in the seventh, but victory was well in hand for the Saints, who completed a perfect 8-0 record in home MAAC games this season.
Things broke almost perfectly for the Saints elsewhere as well. Rider, who came into the day a game up on Siena, lost two 12-inning games at Niagara, and second-place Fairfield could only manage a split with eighth-place Manhattan. In order to make the MAAC Tournament, Siena must play well enough in Sunday's regular-season finale at Fairfield to fend off Marist and Rider. The Red Foxes are currently tied with Siena and play at Iona, while the Broncs are now a game back and visit Canisius.
Siena could finish as high as second in the MAAC or as low as sixth. The first of two games in Connecticut on Sunday begins at 1 p.m.