BROOKLYN, N.Y. – History repeated itself for the St. Francis softball team on Friday. For the second season in a row, a Red Flash hitter knocked in a game-changing grand slam against a semifinal opponent.
Last year, Sierra McKee performed the feat against Sacred Heart. This season, Kassidy Troxell clipped the Long Island-Brooklyn Blackbirds’ wings to power SFU (28-28) to a 5-3 triumph and earn a third straight trip to the NEC finals.
Jordan Frank and Troxell finished with two hits to lead the No. 3 seed Red Flash attack.
The Loretto squad is one win away from clinching its third straight NEC title.
SFU senior Mikayla Bower allowed just one run over the first three innings. Freshman Christina Clark finished off the final four frames for the victory.
Top-seeded LIU Brooklyn tallied an unearned run in the second.
In the third, St. Francis struck back with a walk by MeKenzie Saban, and a double by Cheyenne McKee. A single by Sierra McKee appeared to score Saban, but she was called out at the plate on a disputed call.
LIU decided to intentionally walk Hayley Norton and Troxell made them pay by launching a monstrous grand slam on the first pitch to left-center. Similar to Sierra McKee’s blast from a season ago, the entire dynamic of the game was changed by a solitary blow.
LIU Brooklyn got a run back on a sacrifice fly to trim the deficit to 4-2. Bower recorded two pivotal strikeouts to end the threat and the inning and prevent a momentum shift.
In a savvy tactical decision by coach Jessica O’Donnell, Clark entered the circle in the bottom of the fourth inning and promptly went to work by inducing a 1-2-3 inning.
In the sixth, SFU added a crucial insurance run. Frank started the inning with a single and Allyn Bezjak laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance her to second. MeKenzie Saban came through with a double down the left-field line.
LIU Brooklyn got the run back by singling up the middle with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning.
With the victory, St. Francis advances in the winner’s bracket to play LIU Brooklyn, who defeated Mount St. Mary’s 9-1 in an elimination contest, at noon Saturday. If the Red Flash win, the tournament concludes with SFU heading to the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive season. If the Red Flash lose, a second game will be played afterwards at 2:30 as the NEC Tournament is double elimination.