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College Softball: Underclassmen stepping up for surging Hawks

Special to the Union Leader

May 16. 2018 11:33AM
St. Anselm's Madison Borrelli connects with a pitch during Thursday's game against Merrimack College in Goffstown. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

When you’re good you’re good, and the St. Anselm softball team has personified good in what has been a magical season.

After a 13-7-1 start, the Hawks took the season by the horns and take a 26-3 streak since March 25 into this weekend’s NCAA Division II Super Regional against LIU Post of Brookville, N.Y. at the South Athletic Fields. The winner of the best-of-three series will advance to the Division II World Series in Salem, Va.

The 39 wins so far this season is more than the combined 30 of the last two seasons.

“Our first 20 games were a combination of games in Myrtle Beach and Florida,” Hawks coach Jill Gagnon said. “Because we had added that additional trip to South Carolina it allowed us to make adjustments and get some younger players in so when we hit the conference schedule at the end of March, we were fully prepared for what it would bring.”

The Hawks are averaging 5.08 runs a game and are led by seniors Amanda Bickford and Megan Murrell. A Salem native, Bickford leads the team in hits (77), doubles (14), batting average (.410), and slugging percentage (.495)

Murrell leads the team with 46 runs batted in. Shannon McLaughlin is the third senior on a young squad that features 14 players that are sophomores or younger.

“I try to just show everyone we don’t need to be nervous in these big games,” Bickford said of her role as a senior leader. “It’s just another game no matter what level we’re at. Hopefully they follow my example, relax, and play like it’s any other game.”

The Hawks hosted an opening regional round last weekend and advanced, thanks to three straight wins. The clinching game, a 4-3 win over Merrimack College, saw the Hawks come back from 3-0 down to win.

Freshman Lauren Washburn had two runs and two hits while sophomore Morgan Perry struck out seven in a complete-game victory.

“I love when the youth can step up and be big in big situations,” Bickford said. “Madison (Borrelli)’s killing it at second base. We have Lauren Washburn, she’s killing it as well. Especially in that Merrimack game, she came up big for us. It’s just amazing to see the freshmen and sophomores stepping up because they’ll be doing big things even after I’m gone.”

The Hawks are 15-1 at home this season and are set to take on an LIU Post squad that has made 18 of the last 20 NCAA tournaments and took apart the No. 1 seed, Adelphi, 8-0, in a regional last weekend.

“They’re very powerful offensively and have quite a few players who can hit the ball for power,” Gagnon said of LIU Post. “We, too, offensively have a strong team. We’re hitting better than .300 as team. That’s not an easy feat. I think another thing that could potentially help us is that since we haven’t faced them since last year, no one on their team has faced either of our pitchers. I think that they’re feeling confident, and we can hopefully limit the runs they can score.”

The series begins Thursday with Game 1 at 3 p.m. before concluding with one or two games on Friday afternoon.