The Saint Joseph’s College softball and baseball teams capped incredible spring seasons when both appeared in the NCAA Tournament for Division III. Both teams landed at the tourney after earlier winning the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Tournament Championships.
The SJC softball team (37-10 overall) made its first- ever NCAA Tournament appearance after winning the program’s first GNAC crown since joining the conference four years ago. For the Monks baseball team (32-15 overall), the trip to the New England regional contest marked the fifth in the last six seasons.
St. Joe’s has captured six conference crowns over the last seven years. St. Joe’s, which participated athletically as an NAIA institution through the 2001-02 campaign, had not seen both its baseball and softball programs advance to regional play since 2002.
In softball, the sixth-seeded Monks kicked off their appearance with a convincing 8-1 victory over third-seeded Endicott College in the opening round of the tournament.
The Monks remained in the winners’ bracket of the double-elimination tournament with a stunning victory over second-seeded Coast Guard Academy the next day. Entering the game, Coast Guard sported a nearly-spotless 37-2 record and was ranked sixth nationally! The Monks’ bid for a regional championship hit a roadblock the following day when the Royal Blue lost at the hands of top-seeded and defending regional champ, Eastern Connecticut, and then fell to fourth-seeded Rhode Island College.
“Our experience at the regional tournament is something that will help our program for many years to come,” says Head Coach Jamie Smyth ’92, who just completed his 13th season and is the winningest skipper in team history. “To get a taste of what that experience was like, and how hard it is to get there, will be something that motivates our players for next season and many to follow.”
In the regional baseball tournament, the Monks opened play in the same manner as their softball counterparts – with a victory. The #6 Monks topped #3 Wheaton College behind a stellar pitching performance from sophomore Chad Rafferty.
St. Joe’s fell into the losers’ bracket the next night, however, when #2 Western New England edged the Monks. Then the team faced Tufts University in a win-or-go-home matchup that will likely be remembered as the best game of the New England tournament. Senior catcher Ian Lee lifted the Royal Blue to victory with a walk-off two-run double in the bottom of the 11th inning to keep his team’s regional hopes alive.
Unfortunately, the Monks’ 2011 campaign came to an end the next morning when Wheaton outlasted St. Joe’s by a 5-3 score. The game, which was delayed and later suspended due to fog, was tied 3-3 heading into the ninth, but the Lyons punched two runs across in the last frame while holding the Monks scoreless.
Two-sport athlete earns national academic honor
Alyssa Dunn ’11 of Standish, Maine, became the first person in Saint Joseph’s history to receive an academic All-America accolade when she garnered College Sports Information Directors of America/Capital One Softball Academic All-America® Second Team honors this spring. She was the only student-athlete from a Maine college to earn this recognition.
A standout athlete in softball and field hockey who studied biology/pre-medicine, she was also named as the 2011 Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Woman of the Year. Due to playoff schedules, she had to miss her graduation ceremony, but teammates staged a mock commencement for her and other seniors on the team.
“I have been extremely blessed with experiences in the classroom, on the athletic fields, and throughout the communities that have transformed me into the individual I am today,” Dunn says. “I attribute most of who I’ve become to my experiences on the athletic fields [where I have] garnered principles of integrity and sportsmanship from gratifying victories and humbling losses alike.”
By earning the GNAC Woman of the Year honor, Dunn is now a candidate for NCAA Woman of the Year. The award honors graduating student-athletes who have distinguished themselves in academic achievement, athletics excellence, community service and leadership. Dunn, a four-year starter for the Monks softball and field hockey programs, was previously listed on the Academic All-District Team three times during her career.