Things have had a way of working out this season for the top-seeded Marist softball team.
With Marist down 1-0 against four-seed Iona, in the bottom of the final inning with two outs and nobody on base, it seemed that the Red Foxes were heading to the losers bracket of the MAAC tournament. However, down to their last out, with third baseman Claire Oberdorf up 2-0 in the count, she knew that it was her chance to strike.
“My first two at-bats, my timing was a little bit off,” Oberdorf said. “So going into my last one, I got up two balls and I knew that [the pitcher] was going to bring one, so I knew I had to get a good swing on it and it worked out.”
“Worked out” is Oberdorf’s way of referring to her game-tying home run coming off of that pivotal third pitch. The Marist dugout immediately emptied to meet her at home as soon as the line drive landed over the fence in center field. Many of her teammates had a look of disbelief because of the clutchness of the moment. Perhaps the loudest group at Gartland Field as the two-sport athlete rounded the bases was her other teammates from the women’s basketball team that were cheering her on from the bleachers. After the excitement of the homer, Marist kept the rally alive, with a base hit from Kaley Coltrain that dropped into left field. Then, a throwing error to first base from Iona’s third baseman brought Coltrain home for the walk-off win, 2-1, to advance in the winners bracket of the MAAC tournament.
“We couldn’t ask for anybody else then Claire Oberdorf in that situation,” Marist Head Coach Joe Ausanio said. “It just goes to show that you are never out of it until the final out.”
The story of the game prior to the bottom of the seventh inning was the pitching duel between Marist freshman Calista Phippen and Iona’s Kara Zazzaro. Phippen started off the game by striking out the side in order in the first inning. She was perfect through 3 1/3 innings, until, in the fourth inning, a runner was able to beat out slow roller between the mound and second; it was ruled a fielding error. The Gaels kept the inning alive with the first hit of the game from Kimmie Chiapparelli. That was followed by a single from Jessica Chilcott to drive in the first run of the game. Phippen surrendered a walk and hit to load the bases, but following a mound visit from Ausanio, the Red Foxes were able to get the final out of the inning after a stumbling catch from right fielder Ali Milam. The Red Foxes were able to get out the inning relatively unscathed by stranding the bases loaded.
“Calista threw us an unbelievable game and kept us in the game the entire time,” Ausanio said. “Even though they went up 1-0, I told her ‘just keep us there and we will do our best to score two.”’
Phippen’s final stat line was seven innings pitched, giving up one unearned run, and nine strikeouts.
On the other side, Kara Zazzaro maintained a perfect game until the sixth inning.
“I told them just get some good swing[s] on the ball,” Ausanio said. “They were chasing some bad pitches. We [tried] to make her bring the ball down in the zone and force her to make adjustments to put better swings at her.”
In the sixth inning, Marist got two runners on base. A perfectly placed sacrifice bunt from pinch hitter Hailee Jantorno moved the runners to second and third. However, the Red Foxes were ultimately unable to capitalize on the opportunity. It did, however, help to set up the thrilling end for the Foxes in the seventh.
The Red Foxes will face two-seed Monmouth on Friday at 11 a.m. The winner will advance to the championship game, where they will have two opportunities to defeat the winner of the loser’s bracket to win the MAAC championship.
“They are still the defending champs,” Ausanio said about Monmouth. “And they are still the team to beat no matter what seed they are in this tournament.”
Edited by Will Bjarnar
Header Photo by David Salamone