BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- The No. 11 and top seed Moravian College softball team entered Sunday's Landmark Conference Softball Championship Round at Blue & Grey Field needing just one victory to clinch the program's eighth Landmark Conference title in the conference's 10 years; however, second seed Susquehanna University would defeat the Greyhounds, 4-2, to force the if necessary game and then the River Hawks posted a 5-3 win to clinch the title and the conference's automatic berth into the 2017 NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament.
The Greyhounds slip to 36-6 on the season with the two losses and will wait until the NCAA Division III Selection Show on Monday, May 8 at 1:00 p.m. (http://www.ncaa.com/liveschedule/2017/05/08) to see if they receive an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. Moravian, which has been to the NCAA Tournament 16 times since 1998, was ranked third in the latest NCAA Division III Atlantic Regional Rankings last Wednesday, and the two teams in front of the Hounds, Virginia Wesleyan College and Berry College, as well as the team behind the Greyhounds, Christopher Newport University, all have clinched automatic qualifiers into the tournament field.
Susquehanna is now 29-14 on the year and wins its second Landmark Conference title, having captured the championship on its home field in 2013. The game was the second time in seven Landmark Conference Tournaments at Moravian that Susquehanna had forced a game seven in the tournament, and the first time a team kept the Greyhounds from winning a title at Blue & Grey Field.
The River Hawks had seven hits in the first contest with junior second baseman Heather Pearson and sophomore first baseman Jackie Gore each going 2-for-4.
Junior Josie Novak allowed four runs, three earned, on seven hits and two walks to go along with five strikeouts as she dropped just her third decision of the season.
Senior Jamie Fesinstine earned the win in the circle for the River Hawks with two runs on eight hits and six walks to go with a pair of strikeouts.
In the first game, Susquehanna jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning with an RBI single by Gore and a two-RBI single from junior left fielder Leigh Ann Greenwald.
Moravian answered with two runs in the bottom of the first inning to cut the lead to 3-2. Spilman singled with two outs and would race home from first base on an RBI single off of the fence in right center field by Jeffries. Jeffries would eventually race home on an errant throw from the outfielder after a single by junior first baseman Jean Markovic.
The River Hawks scored an unearned run in the top of the third inning to make the lead 4-2 as Gore raced home on an RBI ground out by Greenwald.
Moravian would strand 12 runners on base in the game including the bases loaded in the seventh and a total of eight runners left in scoring position.
Susquehanna would be the home team for the second championship round game and had eight hits with junior third baseman Emilie Boman and junior catcher Kelly Miller each going 2-for-3 while sophomore right fielder Jill Ahrens had a pair of RBIs.
The Greyhounds collected nine hits in the second contest with sophomore shortstop Kaela Kane and Jeffries both going 2-for-4 with Jeffries connecting on her fifth home run of the season to go with two RBIs. Sophomore third baseman Madison Shaneberger added a 2-for-3 game with a solo home run.
Fesinstine, who was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, tossed her third win of the day in the last game as she allowed three runs on nine hits and three walks to go with four strikeouts while throwing 370 pitches over the three contests.
Junior Amanda Carisone allowed five runs for Moravian but only one was earned on eight hits and a walk. Carisone also struck out one batter.
Moravian jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning in the if necessary game on a two-out, two-run homer to center field by Jeffries after Kane had singled with one out.
Susquehanna would get onto the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth with four runs to take a 4-2 lead. Greenwald started the inning with an RBI single, and Miller tied the contest at 2-2 with an RBI single up the middle. Ahrens gave the River Hawks the lead with a two-RBI double to right center field.
The River Hawks extended their lead to 5-2 in the fifth inning on an RBI single by senior designated player Lauren Creamer that chased Boman across the plate.
The Greyhounds, who left another eight runners on base and had several long fly balls caught on the warning track, scored in the top of the seventh when Shaneberger led off with her third homer of the season over the left field fence. The Hounds would leave the tying run at first base when the game ended.