April 24, 2012

Softball Returns To SCIAC Tournament This Weekend

Claremont, Calif. - The Pomona-Pitzer Softball team will make its first SCIAC Tournament appearance since 2008 when it travels to Redlands this weekend.

Pomona-Pitzer (22-17, 15-9 SCIAC) will be the third seed in the four-team tournament and open play on Friday at 11:30 a.m. against second-seeded Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. Top-seeded Redlands meets fourth-seeded Whittier at 9 a.m. in the first game of the day.

The Sagehens already have a school record for wins after ending the year with win No. 22 in its regular season finale at Cal Lutheran. That passed the previous record of 21 wins, which was set in 2008, the last time that Pomona-Pitzer qualified for the postseason.

The SCIAC bid means that the three seniors on the Sagehens, Emily Buika (Long Beach, Calif.), Bri Marcantoni (Chino Hills, calif.) and Ari Roach (Pinole, Calif.), will get to experience the postseason for the first time in their careers after starting for the last four seasons and narrowly missing top-four finishes.

The three seniors have had key roles in the success this year, as Marcantoni has team-highs with four homers and 29 RBI, Roach is hitting .345 with 22 RBI and Buika has provided 11 RBI and error-free defense in right field. The three seniors have provided clutch hits all season long, with Marcantoni and Buika hitting extra-inning homers on their Senior Day, and Roach contributing a key seventh-inning RBI single in a comeback win over La Verne that clinched the SCIAC bid.

The big story this season for Pomona-Pitzer, though, has been the influx of talent in the freshman class, which includes six regular starters: second baseman Meagan Tokunaga (Albany, Calif.), third baseman/pitcher Jessica Liu (Alamo, Calif.), left fielder Ashley Morello (Santa Cruz, Calif.), center fielder Leah Bleichner (Simi Valley, Calif.), catcher Emily Glass (Davis, Calif.) and pitcher Fiona Riley (Berkeley, Calif.).

The top three hitters on this season's team are freshmen, with Bleichner leading the way at .409 (including .481 in conference games), Glass at .386 and Morello at .380. Liu is hitting .311, Riley leads the Sagehens pitching staff (13-8, 3.15 ERA) and Tokunaga has had a huge role in anchoring the team defense at second base. The freshmen have also made the Sagehens far more dangerous on the bases - as Bleichner leads the team with six stolen bases, Morello and Liu have five apiece and Tokunaga has four.

Pomona-Pitzer has also had a year in which it has seen plenty of dramatic comebacks with different players providing the winning hits. The Sagehens have had seven walk-off wins at home and an extra-inning win on the road with six different players contributing the game-winning RBI. Junior Kathryn Rabak (Grass Valley, Calif.) has provided two of them (including a three-run homer to defeat Staten Island 7-6), while Bleichner has added two in conference wins over La Verne and CMS.

The Sagehens will face a CMS team that it has split four games against, with the home team sweeping each doubleheader. The sweeps weren't easy at either venue, though. Pomona-Pitzer took a 5-4 lead at CMS on a solo homer from Rabak in the top of the seventh, before CMS bounced back with a two-run homer of its own for a 6-5 win. At Pomona-Pitzer on Friday, Riley had a two-hit shutout in the opener for a 5-0 win, with all five runs coming in the first inning. The Sagehens then trailed in the nightcap 1-0 going into the bottom of the seventh before Morello and Bleichner each had RBIs to give the home team a 2-1 win.

Tournament information, directions, etc. can be found on the Redlands athletics website:

http://www.goredlands.com/sports/sball/2011-12/files/SCIAC_Postseason