Hofstra bests James Madison for second time in two days to capture CAA title
Harrisonburg, Va. -- At the start of play Friday, Senior Morgan Lashley had just two career saves and none this season. The right-hander then produced the best relief outing of her career, throwing 2.1 flawless innings to backstop Hofstra's Colonial Athletic Association championship-clinching 2-1 win against No. 18 James Madison Friday afternoon at Veterans Memorial Park.
Lashley stranded two runners in the fifth, struck out the side in the sixth and two in the seventh to save the win for Taylor Pirone (18-10). Lashley struck out five of the seven batters she faced for her third career save.
Lacey Clark drove in both runs on two-out RBI singles as Hofstra won its 11th CAA championship, its third in the last four years. and earned an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. Second-seeded Hofstra (37-12-1) fell to the Dukes, 4-3, in the first game of the double-elimination tournament's final day, but bested the top seed in the rematch.
Hofstra knocked off JMU, which entered the week ranked 18th in the latest NFCA national poll, twice in two days. Pirone earned the Tournament's Most Outstanding Performer and made the All-Tournament team along with Lashley and junior outfielders Caryn Bailey and Chloe Fitzgerald.
Pirone and Lashley bested JMU's Megan Good in a great pitching mathcup. The CAA Rookie and Pitcher of the Year was 27-0 entering the tournament but fell to 28-2 as the Pride won twice in two days. Good held the Pride to just five hits in a complete game, though Clark had two as the teams squared off in just the fifth championship elimination game in CAA history and the first since 2011 when the Pride lost to Georgia State twice on the last day at home. Lashley and Pirone did not walk a batter the entire game in the clincher.
Clark drove in two runs on a pair of two-out singles and Fitzgerald scored both runs. Hofstra struck for runs in both the first and third innings, starting in the opening frame when Clark went the other way for a RBI single to the right side that glanced off second baseman's Morgan Tolle's outstretched glove to score Fitzgerald from second.
Staked to the lead, Pirone pitched to contact and recorded five of her first six outs on the ground. She lowered her ERA to 1.87.
Fitzgerald, who totaled three hits on the day in both games, reached on a fielder's choice and advanced on Bailey's walk in the third inning. Clark then extended Hofstra's lead by poking a two-out single over shortstop Niki Prince to score Fitzgerald for the second time.
Pirone compiled 11 total innings between the first and second games and allowed just two earned runs without walking a batter. Her 18 wins set a career high, besting the 17 she totaled in 2014 in her first year with the Pride after transferring from Fordham.
In the first game of the day, Michaela Transue hit a three-run home run in the first game to account for Hofstra's entire offensive production. Hofstra brought the winning run to the plate in the bottom of the seventh before Ford finished off a complete-game effort by posting a strikeout to close Hofstra's 4-3 loss and set up the winner-take-all elimination contest.