BROOKVILLE, N.Y. -- Needing just one win to advance to the NCAA Division II national finals, LIU Post edged Caldwell 3-0 after dropping the first game of the day by a score of 6-1.
The Pioneers reached the 50 win mark with the split, as they now sit at 50-9 heading into the finals May 22-26 in Salem, Virginia. The Cougars end their season with an overall record of 45-9.
Caldwell put up a fight, scoring one in the bottom of the first inning off starter Liz Weber on an RBI double by Alyssa Calderon. A two-out RBI base-knock by junior right fielder Samantha Miller in the top of the second evened the score at 1-1, but that would be all LIU Post would manage off Caldwell hurler Amber Padilla as she held the green and gold to just four hits in the opener.
Caldwell retook the lead in the bottom of the second and pulled away when Lauren Frye sent a three-run shot over the left-center fence in the third. They added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when Calderon drove in third baseman Kristen Knorr on a sacrifice fly.
Padilla improved to 19-5 with the complete-game win. Weber was tabbed with the loss, dipping to 25-4. She tossed 2.2 innings, surrendering five runs (four earned) on seven hits and three walks. Freshman Ashley Martin pitched the final 3.1 innings, surrendering just one run on one hit.
Sophomore designated player Paige Swantek led the offense with a 2-for-3 performance and scoring the squad's only run.
The deciding game was a different story as junior Megan Salcido got the call to start in the circle for the Pioneers. The hurler was tossing a perfect game until left fielder Nicole Velardi poked one up the middle with two outs in the fifth inning. In the next frame, the Cougars finally managed to get a runner to second base with one out, but Salcido once again shut the door as she induced a groundout back to herself and a fly out to center to end the inning.
Like so many times before, LIU Post crossed the plate via the long ball. Junior catcher Aly Dzierzynski blasted a second-inning solo shot to center to get Salcido the only run support she would need. That fourbagger was Dzierzynski's 25th of the season, tying her for second in the nation with Valdosta State's Courtney Albritton in total homers.
Senior shortstop Nicole Hagenah added some breathing room in the final frame. After senior center fielder Alexis Gonzalez singled to short with two outs, Hagenah sent the first pitch she saw high and deep over the fence in left-center to give her squad a 3-0 advantage.
Salcido improved to 6-1 in the circle and has now clinched both the East Coast Conference Championship and East Region Championship on the mound. She threw a complete-game shutout, surrendering just two hits and one walk while fanning two.
Padilla was saddled with the loss as she gave up the Dzierzynski long ball in her four innings.
Dzierzynski finished 3-for-4 with one run and one RBI, while junior left fielder Catherine Havens, Gonzalez, and Hagenah each turned in a 2-for-4 showing. Hagenah added two RBI and a run scored.