SB: Hofstra To Open CAA Tournament Play Wednesday
Courtesy: Hofstra Athletic Communications
Hempstead, N.Y. – The Pride will be looking to defend their conference championship when top-seeded Hofstra opens Colonial Athletic Association Tournament play on Wednesday against fourth-seeded Towson with a 2 p.m. matchup at Hofstra Softball Stadium.
Hofstra (40-11, 18-2 CAA) captured the league’s regular season title and the right to host the tournament by posting a three-game sweep over Towson to end the regular season. After three straight shutouts over the Tigers, Hofstra will now face Towson (29-26-1, 11-10) in a rematch. The game can be heard on WRHU (88.7-FM) with all Hofstra games in the tournament (scheduled for May 8-10) also available through Pride Zone. The CAA will also offer a live video stream of all games.
Second-seeded James Madison will oppose third-seeded Delaware in the other Wednesday matchup at 5 p.m. The winners of the first game will oppose each other on Thursday at noon with the losers of the first matchup squaring off in an elimination game at 2:30 p.m. See below for the full schedule.
The Pride has won nine out of a possible 11 CAA Tournament championships since entering the league in 2002. Head coach Bill Edwards’ team locked up the CAA regular season crown for the 11th time in 12 seasons after senior Olivia Galati threw three consecutive complete-game shutouts against Towson.
Overall, Hofstra enters the tournament with momentum having won 10 in a row and 18 of the last 19 games. The Pride has won either a regular season or conference tournament championship for 22 consecutive seasons.
Galati also enters the week leading Division I in strikeouts with 352 and shutouts with 18, which is four more than the next-closest player in Oklahoma’s Keilani Ricketts. Galati also has 16 more strikeouts than Texas’ Blaire Luna.
A playoff-tested ace, Galati (34-10, 1.46 ERA) threw every pitch for Hofstra in leading Hofstra to a 3-0 showing in last year’s CAA championship run. The former first-team All-America selection enters the 2013 tournament the Division I active leader in complete with 131 and second-most in career wins with 123, which trails California’s Jolene Henderson by just one.
Hofstra’s offense has supported the right-hander with eight starters batting higher than .300. Though seven seniors have provided strong veteran leadership, the squad has benefitted from great seasons from freshmen starters Caryn Bailey, Maggie Hawkins and Chloe Fitzgerald.
Bailey will look to stay sharp in her first conference tournament action. The right fielder leads Hofstra with a .386 average and a .699 slugging percentage in hitting eight home runs and driving in 38 runs in making all 51 starts. Like Bailey, Hawkins has hit near the bottom-third of the order and has provided a great balance by hitting .333 with 25 RBIs and a .400 on-base percentage while also serving as Hofstra’s second pitcher in going 3-0. As the team’s leadoff hitter, Fitzgerald is batting .311 with 26 runs scored.
To complement the young player, senior Jess Hirschbuhl has provided a valuable blend of power and on-base ability, smashing seven home runs that has more-than doubled her previous career high of three long balls. She has also posted a .449 on-base percentage; showing great toughness at in the batters’ box after being hit by a pitch 14 times. She has 33 RBIs and, along with fellow senior Tessa Ziemba, is one of just two players to score 40-plus runs.
Ziemba has been Hofstra’s biggest power threat with the center fielder hitting 12 home runs. Sophomore Erin Trippi has caught every game for Trippi. Besides helping Galati post a second consecutive 30-win season, Trippi has been a force at the plate at a premium position in hitting .340 with a career-best five home runs and 44 RBIs.
A tough field awaits Hofstra. James Madison nearly captured the top seed by sweeping Georgia State to end the regular season. The Dukes finished in second by a half-game with a 18-3 record and feature a formidable righty-lefty pitching duo in sophomore Heather Kiefer (14-6, 1.16 ERA) and southpaw freshman Jailyn Ford (21-4, 1.65). Two of Ford’s losses came against Hofstra as JMU lost a pair of 1-0 contests before falling, 9-4, in the series finale on April 28.
Towson’s Katie Ligmai (17-14, 2.95 ERA) threw a gem on Saturday against Hofstra and is the ace of a Tigers squad that went 11-10 in conference play. Hofstra was 9-0 on the season against the playoff field with all victories coming at home.
The Pride is 20-2 at home this season, continuing a trend of dominating opponents in Hempstead. Since Hofstra Softball Stadium opened in 1999, the Pride is a combined 290-51 at home. That includes a 127-14 home record all-time against CAA teams (28-6 in the CAA Tournament). Going back to 2001 in the America East, Hofstra is 137-14 in its last 151 home games in opposing league teams. Hofstra has not lost a home conference series since 1991, going 63-0-4 in home series in that span.
Out of the 11 CAA Tournaments in which the Pride competed, Hofstra has only failed to win twice (2009 with JMU winning and 2011 with Georgia State taking the title).
Wednesday, May 8
(Game 1) 2:00 p.m. #1 Hofstra vs. #4 Towson
(Game 2) 5:00 p.m. #2 James Madison vs. #3 Delaware
Thursday, May 9
(Game 3) 12:00 p.m. Winner of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 2
(Game 4) 2:30 p.m. Loser of Game 1 vs. Loser of Game 2
(Game 5) 5:00 p.m. Winner of Game 4 vs. Loser of Game 3
Friday, May 10
(Game 6) 12:00 p.m. Winner of Game 3 vs. Winner of Game 5
(Game 7) If game to follow