NEWTON, Mass. – Mount Ida College stared down elimination several times over the final weekend of the 2015 softball regular season, but they battled back and earned just their second postseason appearance since joining the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) in 2007-08.
The Mustangs (8-14 GNAC) earned the #8 seed and will now have to avoid elimination again when they travel to fifth-seeded Johnson & Wales University (14-8 GNAC) for a one-game playoff at 7:00 pm Tuesday in Providence, R.I.
The Mustangs were last in the GNAC First Round in 2010 under the tutelage of Head Coach Katie Zuman, now in her eighth season with the program. They travelled to Saint Joseph (CT) and were eliminated after a 4-2 loss. Before joining the GNAC, the Mustangs made postseason appearances five times in the North Atlantic Conference (NAC), reaching the NAC semifinals in 2001.
This year is the second straight in which the Mustangs and Wildcats have split their season series. Prior to that, Johnson & Wales had swept Mount Ida for three straight seasons, dating back to when the Mustangs earned a sweep in 2010.
How they Got Here:
Mount Ida needed to win both of their games in the final doubleheader of the regular season on Sunday against Saint Joseph (CT), and they snapped a four-game skid by twice coming from four runs down to earn victories.
Sophomore Sam Laferriere (Tewksbury, Mass.) singled home the winning run with two outs in the top of the sixth in game one as Mount Ida rallied for an 8-7 victory. In the second game of the day, Mount Ida fell behind 5-1 after two innings but scored six times in the fourth and held the Blue Jays scoreless the rest of the way. Sophomore Emma Morton (Winchester, Mass.) broke a 5-5 tie in that fourth inning with a two-run double to right field.
Johnson & Wales secured splits of six of their eleven GNAC doubleheaders this year, including their twin-bill against the Mustangs, played in Providence on April 6th. The Wildcats shut out Mount Ida 6-0 in the first game of the day, getting six strong innings from Jennifer Corona (Middle Island, N.Y.), but Mount Ida rallied with three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning in game two to break a 4-4 tie and earn a 7-5 victory, giving Hayley Microulis (Pawtucket, R.I.) her first collegiate win as a pitcher.
In their final regular season games on Saturday, JWU earned a split at Simmons College, winning 18-16 in the nightcap in a wild nine-inning game that saw both teams score seven runs in the extra eighth frame.
Who to Watch:
Microulis, who has transitioned to the everyday third baseman and pitcher/first baseman Kaitlyn Muhlenforth (Bohemia, N.Y.) are both batting .374 and each have 8 doubles and 13 RBIs to lead the club. Muhlenforth is also one of three Mustangs to go deep this season.
Sophomore pitcher Nicole Handzel (Palmer, Mass.) has returned from injury in the second half of this year and gone 4-2 for the Mustangs with a 2.63 ERA. Handzel has struck out 39 batters in 40.0 innings pitched this year, and held the Wildcats to just two earned runs over five innings before giving way to Microulis in Mount Ida's 7-5 win in Providence earlier this year.
For the Wildcats, Emily Gorecki (Bremerton, Wash.) leads the conference with 36 RBIS, 13 doubles and 7 home runs and her .710 slugging percentage is good for third in the league. Kristen Solari (Old Bridge, N.J.) is hitting .447 this year, good for fifth in the GNAC, and she is slugging .529 with 7 doubles and 21 runs batted in.
Neither team has been prolific at swiping bases this year, as Mount Ida sophomore Michele MacDonald (N. Dighton, Mass.) leads both teams with six stolen bases.
How to Watch:
Tuesday's game will be streamed live on EZStream and live stats will also be available for you to follow the action.
Live Video: http://gnac.ezstream.com
2015 GNAC Softball Tournament Schedule
First Round - Tuesday, April 21 (single elimination)
Game 1: #8 Mount Ida at #5 Johnson & Wales - 7:00 p.m.
Game 2: #7 Saint Joseph (Conn.) at #6 Emmanuel - 7:00 p.m.
Second Round - Friday, April 24 (double elimination begins)
Game 3: Game 1 winner vs. #4 Simmons at #1 Suffolk - TBA
Game 4: Game 2 winner vs. #3 Saint Joseph's Maine at #2 Albertus Magnus - 5:00 p.m.
Game 5: Game 3 winner at #1 Suffolk - TBA
Game 6: Game 4 winner at #2 Albertus Magnus - 7:00 p.m.
Semifinals - Saturday, April 25 (Hosted by Suffolk)
Game 7: Game 4 loser vs. Game 5 loser (elimination game) - 10:00 a.m.
Game 8: Game 3 loser vs. Game 6 loser (elimination game) - 12:15 p.m.
Game 9: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner - 2:30 p.m.
Game 10: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner (elimination game) - 4:45 p.m.
Championship - Sunday, April 26 (Hosted by Suffolk)
Game 11: Game 9 loser vs. Game 10 winner (elimination game) - 10:00 a.m.
Game 12: Game 9 winner vs Game 11 winner - 12:15 p.m.
Game 13: if necessary