DOLPHINS SOFTBALL BACK ON TOP; TAKE CUNYAC FINAL, 5-1

The College of Staten Island women’s softball squad ended the CUNYAC postseason as champions again, winning back-to-back titles and their 16th overall, with a 5-1 win over No. 3 Hunter College as part of the CUNYAC/Applebee’s Women’s Softball Championship Final played at Queens College this afternoon. The win lifted the Dolphins to 23-15 overall, and the team will now await word from the NCAA on where it will begin regional play in the Division III National Championship Tournament which commences next weekend. Hunter, a 9-2 winner over No. 2 Brooklyn College this morning to advance to the Final, finalized their season with a record of 15-23.

To no one’s surprise, the Dolphins gave the ball to freshman Jacqueline Cautela, who pitched the Dolphins to two victories yesterday to advance CSI to the Final. Cautela, however, ran into a confident Hawks squad that had come off a big win over Brooklyn, and after Briana Kresback earned a one-out walk, she advanced on a passed ball and was brought in on a Victoria Slavik single. The Dolphins yielded another single before getting out of a jam thanks to an Aleta Terrill ground ball, but before the Dolphins had a turn to bat, the top-seeds were down, 1-0.

When Hunter took the field, Erika Colangelo earned the starting nod, and the sophomore was up to the task, retiring six of the first seven batters to keep the Hawks up 1-0 going into the third frame.

The Dolphins then came alive.

Danielle Locke got things started with a single, as did Alyssa Setteducato, to set the table for the top of the order. The two runners advanced on a passed ball, and Cautela then followed with an RBI-single scoring Locke. Brittany Smith followed with an RBI groundout, and Stefanie Solari did the same. Colangelo escaped the inning after that but the damage was done, as CSI was ahead, 3-1.

Meanwhile back on defense, Cautela was cruising, and the diamond Dolphins were just as dazzling. Cautela kept the Hawks hitless in the third, fourth, and fifth innings, and CSI added two more runs in the fourth to open up a 5-1 edge. Victoria Procopio scored via a Hunter error, and Cautela helped herself again with an RBI-single, scoring Locke. Colangelo’s day was done in the fifth, as she gave way to Sara Beck.

The Hawks mustered up two hits in the sixth to spark a rally, but then the CSI defense kicked in, and a nifty catch by Locke in left field and then another great turn at shortstop by Maxine Jasko killed the effort. Later, with Hunter down to their final three outs, a CSI error placed Sierra Noud at first base, and then Cautela walked Taylor Crofts. But again, CSI rose up, as Cautela induced consecutive fly balls by Kresback and Megan O’Shea to Locke to end the game, giving CSI the 5-1 win.

CSI out-hit Hunter, 8-6, guided by two hits each from Cautela and Christina Tufano. Julia Lipovac scored two hits for Hunter. Cautela earned the complete game win, allowing the lone run, while striking out three. Colangelo went 4.2 innings in the loss, allowing five runs (three earned) on eight hits, walking two and fanning one.

Head Coach Stella Porto was ecstatic with the win. “We were a bit tight to start the game, but once we started playing into a couple of innings, the tension began to withdraw and I felt like we really started to swing the bat better. The kids were just incredible,” she said. “Hunter came in well-prepared but we were just outstanding these past two days.”

For her efforts, Cautela was named the Tournament’s Most Valuable Player. The freshman tossed 21 innings, allowing just three earned runs, while also hitting safely in each game at the dish.

“Coming into the season, Jackie was wide-eyed about the possibilities of winning a championship, let alone being the person to get us there. She accepted that role head-on. She’s had so much commitment all year and a focus that it is unbelievable,” said Porto. “She’s been the nucleus of our team, and it was fitting that she won MVP.”

Still, Porto contends the win was a pure team effort. Even with two errors today, the coach noted the defense especially as being simply outstanding.

“To win a championship, your team has to play disciplined and controlled out there,” the coach said. “Our defense did that for us. The tough plays that our infield made on some ground balls, the running catches made by our outfield and the cut-off plays, and the play of Alyssa (Setteducato) behind the plate. Truly brilliant. It won us the tournament.”

Now, the Dolphins will set their sights on Monday, when the NCAA selects its National Championship field. It is expected the Dolphins could travel as close as New Jersey, where several teams in the New Jersey Athletic Conference will be in the mix. Porto contends her team is brimming with enough confidence and is looking forward to the challenge.

“In past years we’ve gone in as the noted underdog,” Porto said. “We may be the underdogs again this year, but we want to win some games there. Our team knows how good we can play; this is our chance to prove it. We are very excited.”

The NCAA draw is expected for early-Monday. Check back in with www.csidolphins.com for the latest.