Ficara

KUTZTOWN, Pa. -– Kutztown won its second consecutive Atlantic Region championship on Saturday afternoon with a 2-1 victory against West Chester in the second game of the NCAA Atlantic Super Regionals hosted by Kutztown at North Campus Field.

The Golden Bears (34-21) will now make a return trip to the NCAA softball championship as a regional champion next week at the Moyer Complex in Salem, Va.

Kutztown earned its 11th consecutive win with Saturday's triumph against the Golden Rams (37-21) as the team has not lost in postseason play in 2013.

“I am so proud of our team,” head coach Judy Lawes said. “We dealt with some adversity early on in the season, but the team stuck together and really put everything together in the postseason. It's exciting to go back to the [national championships].”

“Our core of seniors is so excited to go back to the [national championships],” senior catcher Katie Lynch said. “We've worked so hard this year and continued to fight to get ourselves back in this position.”

Sophomore pitcher Dominique Ficara got off to a great start in the circle, throwing just 12 pitches through the first two innings including three in the second. She kept West Chester off the board for the first four innings to extend her scoreless innings streak to 26.

Lynch led off the fourth inning with a walk on a full count to bring fellow senior Maria Isgro to the plate. On the first pitch, Isgro drove a well-hit triple to the gap in right center field to score Lynch standing and give the Golden Bears a 1-0 lead. Isgro scored during the following at-bat on a wild pitch by West Chester pitcher Devon UItterback that went over the catcher's head.

“I came to bat looking for a pitch to drive, knowing that we'd have to score eventually if we wanted to pull out the win,” Isgro said. “The first pitch was perfect and right outside where I could take it the opposite way. As a team, I thought we did a great job of making [Utterback] throw a lot of pitches and be patient enough to wait for one we could drive.”

West Chester answered with a run in the fifth. Following a single down the left field line and a single that a diving Nicole Henninger kept in the infield, Kelly Anderson hit a double to left center field to score a run and put two runners in scoring position with two outs.

Following the RBI, sophomore Mary Kociencki relieved Ficara and forced J.P. Norris to groundout and get Kutztown out of the jam.

West Chester used a single and a KU fielding error to put runners on first and second with one out in the sixth, but Kociencki showed no signs of wear and worked out of yet another jam to maintain the 2-1 advantage.

Kociencki pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning. On the final play, West Chester hit a groundball to shortstop that senior Brianna Knipe tossed to junior Colleen Smith at first that brought the Kutztown dugout racing onto the field in celebration of its second consecutive regional championship.

“It's still unbelievable to me,” Lawes said in the postgame press conference. “We've gone into every game with the mindset of that it is just another game, and now we haven't lost once in the postseason. I'm just enjoying the moment right now.”

Kutztown and Grand Valley State will square off in Salem, a place where Kutztown plays every year during the regular season, and the Golden Bears feel that could play into their favor with a more comfortable and experienced setting.

“I think our previous experience helped us in regionals, super regionals, and hopefully at the national championships because we know what to expect,” Lawes said. “We've played at Salem every year during the season, so we will be familiar with the facilities along with some of the little things that are important to know when you get there.”