CLEVELAND, OHIO – The TCNJ softball team nearly extended its season for another day, but the Lions were unable to stave off a double dose of elimination and bowed out of the NCAA Tournament with a 2-1 loss to No. 25 Case Western Reserve on Saturday night.
TCNJ (28-11) edged No. 13 Roanoke, 4-2, to keep its hopes alive before falling to the host Spartans for the second day in a row by the same score line.
Case Western Reserve advanced to Sunday’s regional final to meet No. 18 Concordia-Wisconsin, which routed the Spartans 13-0 in the first game of the day and will have two chances to claim the regional crown.
TCNJ 4, Roanoke 2
An error with one out helped paved the way for the Lions’ huge third inning, which proved enough to last them the whole game. With Costello aboard after a single, the Roanoke shortstop mishandled a grounder off the bat of Jaclyn Carif to put two on with one out. Julia Mayernik loaded the bases with a base hit to left, and Conroy’s walk forced in the opening run.
An infield pop-up should have been the end of the inning, but was only the second out, and Aspiazu made the Maroons pay. Rather than leave Carifi and Mayernik marooned on the base paths, she plated both with a clutch double to left-center. Camryn Davies’ RBI singles scored Conroy and made it 4-0.
Roanoke (30-14) got on the board on an error in the fourth, and had a big fifth inning brewing before Lauren Conroy came to the rescue. Thanks to some of the veteran’s trademark defensive wizardry, the Lions avoided potential disaster.
After the Maroons had already scored a run and re-loaded the bases, Conroy fielded a grounder and tagged the bag at third for the second out. She then managed to tag the lead runner, who hesitated on the play, for an inning-ending twin killing that kept TCNJ in front by two runs.
Roanoke wasn’t done threatening, however. The home side loaded the bases again in the sixth with only one out, but the Lions managed another escape act as Julia Roessler – who had entered earlier in the frame – induced a weak pop-out to Aspiazu in foul ground and got an inning-ending strikeout on a pitch up in the zone.
The rookie southpaw then worked a spotless seventh for her first career save, eliminating Roanoke and sending TCNJ into a rematch with the host Spartans.
Costello and Mayernik each finished 2-for-3 with a walk and also scored a run. Conroy reached base twice, driving in one run while scoring another and adding a stolen base.
Gillian Roberts earned the win with an inning of scoreless relief.
For the game, the Maroons languished to a 3-for-17 effort with runners on, which included 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position, and went 0-for-4 with the bases loaded. They stranded 11 runners on the day.
Case Western 2, TCNJ 1
The Lions managed only two hits off CWRU ace Lexi Miskey, who struck out 14 TCNJ batters the day prior. One of the hits, however, had the visitors on top early as Davies delivered a two-out RBI double in the second to plate Mayernik with the game’s first run.
Roessler, making just her fifth start of the season, got the first two outs in the bottom of the third before the Spartans used some good fortune to turn the tables. After an infield single, the rookie southpaw committed a fielding error to extend the inning, and Isabella Russo made her pay with a two-run double to take the lead.
That was all the scoring for the night. TCNJ had chances in each of the last two innings, but was unable to break through.
In the sixth, a throwing error by Miskey put runners on the corners with two outs before she froze Mayernik with a called third strike.
TCNJ threatened again in the seventh, when Julia Kinnally was hit by a pitch and Aspiazu – down to her last strike – bounced a seeing-eye single through the right side to make it first and second with two outs. Miskey, however, got pinch-hitter Kayla Hillenbrand to swing through a 2-2 pitch to end it.
Roessler was terrific, conceding only the two runs – both unearned – on four hits with a pair of walks.
Conroy ended her outstanding career with a .391 batting average, 174 hits, 106 runs scored, 15 home runs, 161 RBIs, 46 doubles, and a 1,093 OPS.