Top seed LIU Post wanted to make a statement in the first round of the East Coast Conference softball championship in Brookville on Thursday. It was mission accomplished after the Pioneers pounded out 17 hits in a 10-2 victory over Mercy in a game shortened to six innings by the run rule.
Post (45-11), ranked 14th in Division II, will meet Molloy (44-11) Friday at 10 a.m. Molloy beat Dowling, 11-0, in five innings. Dowling (29-16) meets Mercy (26-24) in an elimination game at 12:30 p.m. Saturday's winner earns a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Catcher Alyson Dzierzynski got Post off to a great start when she hit a three-run home run in the first inning. That would be enough for starting pitcher Liz Weber, but the Post bats were just getting started.
"It doesn't matter what seed you are, in a tournament like this no matter what team you are playing you want to come out strong," said outfielder Alexis Gonzalez, who went 4-for-4 with four RBIs. "You want to prove you belong here. You can be the fourth seed, you can be the first seed. We just have the mindset, keep playing our game."
Gonzalez had a two-run double in a four-run fifth inning. "There's not one person in the lineup that you can doubt," Gonzalez said. "If you make an out you know the next batter's going to pick you up. Everybody has your back.''
Freshman designated player Paige Swantek had four hits, including three doubles, and an RBI. Maria Palmeri had two doubles, Samantha Miller had two hits, and Weber, who threw a four-hitter, also had two hits.
Swantek said she didn't feel any butterflies in her first postseason game. "I'm taking it the same as every other game," she said. "At first it was exciting being there but then I'm just going to settle down and play my game."
Gonzalez, a senior, said of Swantek, "She's amazing, she's hard to pitch to. It's like she's been playing her whole life."
Weber appreciated the hitting support. "It's unbelievable," she said. "Every time I get on the mound I'm not worried even if the [opposition] scores one run. We got this, we're going to come back.
"I'm a lot looser. I can work on my spins, work inside, outside, up and down, mix in the changeup. l really didn't have to go with my strikeout pitches."'
Weber still managed to strike out nine.
Post coach Jamie Apicella, in his 15th season, was glad his team got off to a good start, but he knows it will be difficult to win the tournament. "We're going on the fifth time seeing teams now, so we're overexposed," he said. "After playing them so much during the regular season, anything can happen."
But Post's goal is clear. "We want to show everyone that we're out here to play, out here to win," Weber said. "This is the road to the World Series."
In Molloy's victory over Dowling, starter Kelley Jansen allowed three hits and struck out nine. Molloy scored nine runs in the third inning. Brenda Lee had two hits in the inning, including a two-run home run. Nicolette Sinagra and Tracey Balinskas each had two RBIs.
Molloy lost three of four regular-season games to Post; Jansen has the one victory. "We hit well today, I hope that carries over," she said. She was glad it was a shortened game, saying, "The less innings I pitch the stronger my arm is going into the next game."
Jansen said she "peeked at" Post's score against Mercy but is up to the challenge of facing the hard-hitting Pioneers. She said her strategy will be to "outsmart the batters. Throw them unpredictable pitches, kind of just change it up."
Molloy coach Susan Cassidy-Lyke added, "We know Post just like they know us. We always match up somewhere in the regionals. We know a lot of their tendencies and they know a lot of ours."