MONTCLAIR, N.J. -- Montclair State is Texas-bound after the Red Hawks swept past Kean in the NCAA Division III Montclair Super Regional on Saturday.
Senior righthander Alex Hill was named the most outstanding pitcher while classmate Katie Muglia was chosen the most outstanding player as MSU knocked off the Cougars 2-0 and 4-1 to advance to the NCAA Division III championship in Tyler, Texas beginning on Thursday, May 22. The Red Hawks, who will make their third consecutive appearance in the national finals, will face Trine in the final game of the day at 6:30 pm ET on Thursday.
It was an all-NJAC matchup in the best-of-three as Montclair and Kean squared off for the fifth and sixth times in 2014. Kean entered the day having won three of the previous four meetings, including a pair of 3-2 wins against Montclair State in the NJAC tournament two weeks ago. However this time it would be the Red Hawks getting the better of the Cougars as it put early runs on the board in both contests.
In Game 1, Hill set the side down in order before her teammates came to bat and put two runs on the board thanks in part to two Kean miscues.
Brooke Powers led off the inning with a single and went to second on a sacrifice by Alisha Cumberton. Amato flared a single to right field putting runners at the corners. First baseman Tara Petrucelli lined a ball to second base that was caught and should have been turned into an inning-ending double-play. But the throw back to first got away allowing Powers to score with the first run while Amato went to third. That proved important as Kean starter Courtney Yard was called for an illegal pitch sending Amato home for a 2-0 MSU lead.
Hill made that hold up as she allowed just two hits with 12 strikeouts recording her 18 shutout in 28 starts this season. She allowed just two base runners to reach second base, including the third as Jill Martin was hit by a pitch and stole second. But Hill got a pop up to end the inning and did not allow another hit until the sixth when Megan Cegielski singled with one out. Cegielski got to second with two out but was stranded there on a pop up.
In the seventh, Hill (29-4) recorded her 12th strikeout to open the inning and got a fly ball to left before Cumberton ran down a foul pop up near the dugout for the final out giving Montclair State the important first-game victory.
Yard took the loss after giving up six hits, striking out four and walking one. Melany Zeller had two hits for the Red Hawks.
Montclair State used its momentum from the first contest and quickly jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on an RBI single by Petrucelli. Amato added to the lead with an RBI double in the third and the Red Hawks tacked on two in the fourth for a 4-0 advantage. Muglia delivered the first run with a double and Jaclyn Allegretta singled for the other run.
Meanwhile, Hill kept putting zeroes on the board running her scoreless inning streak in the NCAA tournament to 26 innings before Kean finally broke through in the fifth. Tonianne DeMatteo doubled with two outs and Martin was hit by a pitch. Cegielski singled to center loading the bases and Emily Sabo's RBI single made the score 4-1. But Hill limited the damage to just a run getting a comebacker to the circle ending the inning.
In the seventh, Martin doubled with one out giving Kean one last chance. Cegielski flared a ball to left field that Powers tracked down along the line before firing back to second to complete an game-ending double-play.
Hill registered her 30th win of the year as she struck out five while scattering seven hits. Yard finished the year at 23-10, giving up eight hits and four runs with two strikeouts and a walk.
Martin and Sabo had two hits apiece for Kean while Muglia and Allegretta each had two for MSU.
This will be the eighth overall appearance in the national tournament for Montclair State and the fifth under head coach Anita Kubicka as the Red Hawks will make three consecutive appearances for the first time in program history. MSU finished third in the 2012 tournament in Salem, Virginia and finished second in the 1997 NCAA championship in Eau Claire. MSU was third at the 1992 finals in Pella, Iowa and fifth last season in Eau Claire.