Marist softball defeated defending MAAC Champion Canisius by a score of 6-2 to win their first MAAC Championship in seven years.
Since Marist were in the winners bracket, all they had to do was win one game to be champions. Canisius, on the other hand, had to win two games if they wanted to claim their second straight MAAC title.
But they never got the chance, as Marist came out victorious in the first game, giving them the MAAC title for the first time since 2016.
The same two pitchers from yesterday’s matchup started in the circle once again. For Canisius, it was MAAC Pitcher of the Year junior Megan Giese, while All-MAAC Second Team member senior Kiley Myers started for Marist.
At the conclusion of yesterday’s game, Marist graduate student pitcher Calista Phippen hurt her knee during the celebration, the same knee she has a brace on. The injury ultimately held her out of today’s contest, putting even more pressure on Myers to deliver a standout performance.
In the top half of the second inning, Marist opened the scoring. With one out, senior right fielder Shea Walsh blooped one into left center for a base hit. Then came Manory, who sliced one deep into the gap in right center field, allowing Walsh to score from first as she delivered an RBI double to give the Red Foxes a 1-0 lead.
The Marist offense continued humming along in the third inning when freshman center fielder Peyton Pusey hit a soft ground ball to the shortstop and hustled her way to first, garnering a safe call. Pusey proceeded to steal second base, as she avoided the tag.
This made things easier for Marist senior second baseman Sam Freeland to drive in another run. She drove one the other way that freshman left fielder Rylee Alfaro had a tough time coming up with it, resulting in Pusey scoring easily from second and Freeland turning a double into a three-bagger thanks to the error. That double gave the Red Foxes a 2-0 lead.
Two batters later, MAAC Rookie of the Year redshirt freshman shortstop Haley Ahr stepped up with an RBI single that dropped into center field, scoring Freeland from third and giving Marist a 3-0 lead. Ahr has been an RBI machine all season, as she came into this game leading the MAAC in RBIs with 47.
Canisius responded in the bottom half of the third with one out in the inning. Sophomore second baseman Saige Alfaro hit a line drive down the left field line for a double. The next batter up was McGee-Ross, who was intentionally walked by Marist head coach Joe Ausanio.
The move put runners on first and second with one out. Shortly after, Rivait put one into left field for a base hit, scoring Saige Alfaro from second base and making it 3-1. The Golden Griffins base running tricks finally paid off as they successfully pulled off a double steal, putting runners on second and third with only one out.
Myers needed to find her groove to get out of this jam, as Canisius had the tying runs on base. She received some help from junior catcher Gianna Fazzolari, who decided to bunt but couldn’t move the runners over. An ensuing a pop-up from sophomore designated player Rosie Gomez allowed Myers to escape the jam.
After a couple of uneventful innings, in the bottom of the fifth, Canisius added on another run. With two outs in the inning, Myers had to face the lethal McGee-Ross for the third time today. She had already reached base twice, and did so again, taking Myers deep with a solo blast over the left center field wall to draw Canisius within one.
In the top half of the seventh, Ahr came up big yet again for Marist with an RBI, as she drove one to deep left center field for a double, scoring the speedy Freeland from first and giving the Red Foxes a 4-2 lead.
With two outs in the inning, Marist junior third baseman Alyssa Grupp hit a high pop-up to short left field, and a miscommunication from Canisius junior shortstop Sydney Costan and Rylee Alfaro in left field resulted in a nasty collision between the two. The ball ultimately fell out of Costan’s glove, allowing Ahr to score from first, Grupp to go to second, and the Red Foxes to increase their lead to 5-2.
The defensive woes continued for Canisius as Saige Alfaro mishandled a routine ground ball from Walsh, resulting in runners being put on first and third. Next up it would be Manory with an RBI single into center for a base hit, allowing Grupp to score easily to put Marist up 6-2. However, Walsh got greedy trying to score from first and was thrown out at home ending the inning.
Just three outs away from a championship, Myers handled the Canisius hitters with ease, as senior right fielder Sophia Recrosio grounded out to first to end the game.
The Red Foxes ran to the circle and celebrated their first MAAC Title since 2016. For Ausanio, the long journey back to the top of the conference makes it so much more rewarding.
“100%, this one is sweeter than all the others before,” Ausanio said.
They now await their fate in the NCAA Tournament, which begins on Friday, May 19. Scheduling is TBA.
Edited by Luke Sassa
Photo Credit: Marist Athletics