LAKEWOOD, N.J. – The Caldwell University softball team rallied back from an early deficit as freshman and tournament MVP Paige Sandoval (Aliso Viejo, Calif.) blasted a walk-off three-run homerun in the eighth inning to send the Cougars to a 10-7 victory over Dominican College to claim back-to-back Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference Titles.
The Cougars capture their eighth CACC championship and have won three of the last four CACC Championships. Caldwell receives the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division II East Region Tournament. The Cougars will await their seeding on the NCAA Division II Softball Selection Show, which will be streamed live via ncaa.com on Monday, May 7 at 10 am.
Caldwell took lead in the first inning as freshman Maya Rodriguez (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) singled in a pair of runs. Junior Carly Testa (Sicklerville, N.J.) added a sacrifice fly in the inning to extend the lead to 3-0.
Dominican rallied in the top of the second as they pushed across four runs. The Chargers added a pair of runs in the sixth to extend their lead to 6-3.
The Cougars answered in their half of the sixth as sophomore pinch hitter Daniela Solis (Wilmington, Del.) led off the inning with a solo homerun. Sophomore Melissa Rini (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) drew a walk, while Rodriguez followed with a double to score Rini. Freshman Kaileen Cain (Hauppauge, N.Y.) tied the game at six as she singled up to middle to score freshman pinch runner Abbigail Cleckner (Sykesville, Md.). Testa reached on an infield single as Cain scored to give Caldwell a 7-6 lead.
The Chargers tied the game in the seventh as they pushed across a two-out run to force extra innings.
In the eighth, senior Marisa Monasseri (Monroe, N.J.) was intentionally walked to start the inning. After a sacrifice bunt, Cain worked out a walk to put runners at first and second with one out. Sandoval stepped to the plate and played hero with her walk-off homerun to give the Cougars the CACC Title.
Sophomore pitcher Sara Bearden (Ewing, N.J.) worked the first 6 2/3 innings, allowing seven runs (five earned) on eight hits with two strikeouts. Sophomore Jessie Johnston (Livermore, Calif.) earned the win in relief, tossing 1 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing one hit.
Sandoval earned Tournament MVP honors with two homeruns and nine RBI in the four games at the tournament. Monasseri batted .400 for the tournament, while Rini added a homerun and turned in outstanding defensive play at short stop to earn all-tournament team recognition. Johnston was also selected to the all-tournament team as she went 2-0 with a saves along with a 0.70 ERA for the week.
The Cougars will await their seeding on the NCAA D2 Softball Selection Show, which will be streamed live via ncaa.com on Monday, May 7 at 10 am.