The CSI Women's Softball team has won the CUNYAC Championship again.

The College of Staten Island Women’s Softball team won their 14th CUNYAC Softball Championship last Saturday, defeating No. 2 seeded Baruch College, 3-0, as part of the second day of competition of the 2011 CUNYAC/Pepsi Postseason Softball Championship double-elimination tournament held this afternoon at the CSI Softball Complex. By virtue of the win, the Dolphins (26-11) have earned an automatic berth into the NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament, while the Bearcats season finalizes at 17-23. Baruch defeated Hunter College, 3-2, earlier that day to earn the right to face CSI in the championship.

The Dolphins, sitting idle while Baruch came from behind to beat Hunter in the last of the seventh inning, looked fresh from the get-go, as the Dolphins plated in a run in the first frame after Ponsiglione retired the Bearcats in the top of the first. Kristi Dillon led off with a hit off Baruch pitcher Nicole Flint, and after two outs were recorded, senior Joanna Tepedino smoked a line-drive double to left field, scoring Dillon to open the game, 1-0.

From there, the teams traded zeroes on the scoreboard as Baruch managed the only base hit going into the bottom of the fourth frame, where CSI would add two insurance markers. Tepedino started the rally with a single, and after she was sacrificed over to second base, Tepedino moved to third on a deep fly ball to right field by Stefanie Solari. With two outs, CSI then received two timely hits. Michelle Ferraiuolo followed an outstanding game in the field, by lacing a deep fly ball to straightaway centerfield for a double, easily scoring Tepedino. Up next stepped in Ponsiglione, who helped her own cause in the circle by punching in a single to right field, advancing Ferraiuolo home to offer the home squad a 3-0 lead.

From there, Ponsiglione was outstanding, allowing only a single baserunner in the fifth and sixth innings before things got a little hairy in the final frame. Coming off a three-run seventh inning against Hunter, the Bearcats almost pulled off another monumental comeback. Regina Cardinale led off with a lined single into left field, and after registering an out, Michele Runko took Ponsiglione’s first pitch into shallow left to put two runners on base.  Ponsiglione rallied back to fan Julia Giustiniani to record the second out, but with the top of the order back up, Melanie Pellegrino hit a seeing-eye single right through the middle of the infield to load the bases for Elizabeth Santos. In a tense moment for both teams, the game ended fittingly, as Santos grounded straight back to Ponsiglione, CSI’s defensive hero, who calmly flipped the ball to Tepedino, the offensive catalyst for the final out, sending the players and coaches on the field to topple the duo in celebration.

“Our dedication level this year was outstanding,” said a jubilant Head Coach Stella Porto at the game’s end, who celebrated her 200th victory during the tournament. “The girls were focused and ready and we played together the entire way to get this win.

For her outstanding work in the circle, which included 14 innings pitched with just two runs allowed against 14 hits and seven strikeouts, junior Ponsiglione was tagged with the tournament’s Most Valuable Player honors.

“Danielle was exceptional for us as always,” said Porto of her junior standout, who moved to 12-6 overall this season. “She was very confident out there and let her talents take over. She worked quickly and made good decisions.”

Baruch out-hit CSI, 6-5, with Runko leading the way offensively with a 2-for-3 performance. Tepedino banked CSI’s only multi-hit game, going 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored. Flint took the loss, going six innings, allowing three earned runs, striking out three batters (all in the first inning).

The 26 victories tallied by CSI this season are the third-most in CSI history, and the most since the Dolphins’ 28-13 campaign in 2007, which also featured a CUNYAC Championship and NCAA National Tournament appearance. The championship crown collected by the Dolphins all-time leads the CUNYAC field with 14 overall, and is second at CSI only to Men’s Baseball, who have garnered 15 championships. Despite the unbelievable successes of both programs, it was the first time CSI has won both spring diamond championships since 2005.

The Dolphins will now await word on their national tournament appearance draw, which will be announced today. Similar to the CUNYAC Championship Tournament, the NCAA Regionals features a double-elimination draw featuring between 6-8 teams. Be sure to consult the CSI Website for the latest information.

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