BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- Moravian College continues its look back at the 2015-16 athletic campaign with the No. 9 highlight in the Top 10 Exciting Games – the softball team's 13-8 win over the Mount Saint Mary College in the 2016 NCAA Division III Ithaca Regional.
The Greyhounds, who finished the year at 37-6 and ranked just outside the final Top 25 in the final National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division III Poll after spending most of the year ranked, faced the Knights in the final elimination game of the regional before the championship round on Saturday, May 14, 2016.
The win for Head Coach John Byrne was the 750th of his career to improve his record to 750-226 in 23 seasons leading the Greyhounds after the contest. Byrne has guided Moravian to the NCAA Division III Tournament 16 times and the program is 41-34 in NCAA action with four regional titles, the Division III World Series appearances and a national runner-up finish in 2004.
The Hounds would have to rally from deficits of three and four runs at different points in the game against Mt. St. Mary to stave off elimination and make the regional final for the seventh time.
"I thought it was a great comeback by the team as they showed their perseverance throughout the game," commented Byrne. "We got down early, and at that point it was time to respond or go home since it was an elimination contest. The players really came together, got some people on base and the bats got hot."
Moravian gave up a run in the bottom of the first and two more in the bottom of the third inning to fall behind 3-0.
The Greyhounds would tie the game in the top of the fourth inning on a three-run homer to left field by junior designated player Victoria Conner. Junior outfielder Julie Siragusa started the rally with a single, and sophomore catcher Janae Matos followed with a single before Conner's fifth homer of the season.
"Knowing that this game could have been our last of the season, we weren't going to go down without a fight," stated Siragusa. "We all kept a positive mindset and stuck together and played our game. We know what we are capable and we were going to fight until the last out."
However, the tie would be short-lived as the Knights scored four times in the bottom half of the fourth inning to retake a 7-3 lead.
Moravian answered right back in the top of the fifth to tie the contest again with four runs. Freshman shortstop Kaela Kane led off with a single and raced home from first base on an RBI double off of the bat of freshman third baseman Madison Shaneberger. Two batters later, Matos connected on an RBI single to chase Shaneberger across the plate. Conner reached on an error before sophomore first baseman Jean Markovic hit a two-RBI double to the fence in left centerfield to knot the score at 7-7.
The Hounds were able to keep the Knights off the scoreboard in the bottom of the fifth.
Moravian finally moved in front for the first time in the game with four runs in the top of the sixth frame. Senior right fielder Mary Schlosbon started the inning with a walk before a bunt single by Kane. Shaneberger would put down a sacrifice bunt, and everyone beat out the play to load the bases. After the first out of the inning, Siragusa came up with the bases loaded.
"The only thing that was going through my mind when I went up to the plate with the bases loaded was to hit the ball hard somewhere hoping to move our runners and chip away at Mt. Saint Mary's to take a lead," Siragusa commented.
Siragusa would get an inside pitch and drove it down the left field line. The ball would stay fair and be high enough to clear the six-foot fence for a grand slam to give the Greyhounds an 11-7 lead. It was Siragusa's first career grand slam, and she also set the Moravian record for doubles during the season with 21.
"After seeing how much I pulled the ball, all I was hoping was for it to stay fair," explained Siragusa. "In my head I was thinking I'd have a double off the wall. I didn't realize it was gone until I saw it clear the fence."
The Knights scored once in the bottom of the sixth before Moravian finished the scoring with a pair of run in the top of the seventh on a two-RBI single by freshman center fielder Kat Spilman that scored freshman second baseman Julia DeMarco, who had reached on an error, and Kane, who had walked.
Sophomore Amanda Carisone tossed the entire game in the circle for the Greyhounds as she improved to 18-2 on the year with three strikeouts in the victory.
"I would have to rank this game somewhere in the top five among all the games I have been apart of at Moravian," stated Siragusa. "That grand slam was definitely one of the best feelings I have had as a Greyhound but our two conference championship titles and our regional championship title comes before it."
You can read the original game story at http://moraviansports.com/sports/sball/2015-16/releases/20160514qy222a.
Game number eight of the countdown will be released on Monday, July 4.