After a near four hour rain delay, the College of Staten Island softball squad came up just short in the opening round of the NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament, falling to host The College of New Jersey by a 1-0 count in Ewing, NJ.  The Lions improved to 29-14 with the win, while CSI fell to 25-14.  The tournament follows a double elimination format, so the Dolphins will face elimination tomorrow against Neumann University at 12:30pm, while TCNJ advanced to the winner’s bracket to face Manhattanville College.

Before first pitch, Mother Nature was the only winner, as the rains came fairly steady after Manhattanville scored a 9-0 win over Neumann in the opener.  Originally scheduled for a 2:30pm start, the game was moved up to 1:00pm, then to 1:30pm before rain dampened the mood.  At first, the delay held until 2:20, then 3:00pm, then 4:00pm, until finally the NCAA set a 5:30pm start time and first pitch was thrown at 5:24pm.  Once the game did start, it moved a long very quickly as CSI starter Jacqueline Cautela matched toe-to-toe with TCNJ ace Sam Platt.

The Dolphins threatened early.  After leaving a runner on in the first, CSI loaded the bases in the second, using hits by Chyanne Gilliam and Ashley Notaro and a hit by pitch to Nicolette Trapani.  With two outs, however, Platt registered a huge out by getting Cautela to strike out to end the frame and the threat.  It would come back to haunt the Dolphins, who from there would register only a lone base runner the rest of the way, thanks to a Vanessa Joia single in the sixth inning.  Before that, Platt registered 12 straight CSI out at the dish.

But Cautela was just as strong in the circle for the Dolphins.  TCNJ stranded a runner in the second frame, but otherwise were also frustrated at the plate.  It was no different in the fourth, but the Lions were, however, able to scratch out what proved to be the game-winning run.

Kristen Fitzsimmons started by earning on via a bunt single.  On the next at-bat, CSI made a huge infield error when off of the bat of Deanna Utter, the Dolphins tried to get Fitzsimmons out at second on the infield grounder.  The error saw both runners safe on the play, and they were both promptly advanced a base due to a Gaby Bennett sacrifice.  With one out Jess Santelli lined a grounder to third that saw CSI’s Christina Tufano make a diving stab at the ball.  Tufano had no chance, however, to make a play at any base and Fitzsimmons came in to score the unearned run.  Cautela wiggled out of the jam by forcing a Jamie Purcell pop-out, but not before TCNJ had a 1-0 lead without having hit a ball out of the infield.

That was enough for Platt, who breezed through the remaining innings, keeping the Dolphins off-balance the rest of the way. The Lions out-hit the Dolphins 4-3, and CSI left five total runners on base.  Platt fanned six Dolphins in the complete game win.  Cautela struck out three in the hard luck loss, allowed no earned runs on four hits through six innings.

CSI will next take on Neumann University at 12:30pm tomorrow in an elimination game.  It will be the first-ever meeting between the two sides.  The winner of that game will turn around and play again at 3:00pm against the loser of Manhattanville/TCNJ in another elimination contest.  Should CSI advance out of Saturday’s games they will advance to Sunday’s Regional Championship, slated to start at 12 Noon.