NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. - The Marist softball team (28-25, 9-7 MAAC) punched its ticket to the upcoming MAAC Tournament with a split on the road versus the conference leader Iona (31-23, 12-4 MAAC). The Red Foxes won Game One with a dramatic late inning comeback, 3-2 in eight innings before dropping the second game 3-0. Senior Nicole DiVirgilio (Aston, Pa.) led the offense as she batted .429 (3-7) on the day with the game-winning RBI in Game One. In the circle, junior Emily Osterhaus (Suwanee, Ga.) threw 10.2 innings, struck out four and held Iona to three runs for the doubleheader.
GAME ONE, MARIST 3 - IONA 2 (F/8): With their backs against the wall and needing a win, the Red Foxes were faced with the daunting task of having to compete against Iona's Sarah Jackson, who came in with a league-leading 1.30 ERA.
The task got even more daunting as the Gaels sent eight batters to the plate in the bottom of the first inning and scored two runs. Osterhaus and the Red Foxes averted further damage as the bases were left loaded.
Realizing her offense was in need of support Osterhaus buckled down in the circle and limited the Gaels to just two hits in innings two through six.
With the score 2-0 Iona going into the seventh and Jackson rolling, the Red Foxes chances looked bleak. After two quick outs, they looked even bleaker. Unfazed, sophomore Alyssa Zahka (Lexington, Mass.) began the two-out rally with a single to center field. Birnbaum followed up Zahka with another single to give Marist runners at first and second. This set the stage for sophomore Aly Klemmer (Hamilton, N.J.) to drive in both with a single to centerfield.
After seeing its lead vanish, Iona tried to win in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the seventh, as the Gaels loaded the bases. Marist staved off the walk-off attempt, as Osterhaus got Iona's leading power hitter Alyssa Maiese to fly out to left field for the third out.
With the momentum of the seventh inning holding over, Marist got another rally going in the eighth. Senior Ashley Corriss (Sayville, N.Y.) began the game-winning drive with a single to center field. Lamoureux followed her effort with another single. With runners on first and second, DiVirgilio singled in the game-winning run with a hit out to right field.
After a leadoff double, Osterhaus retired Iona's next three batters to preserve the 3-2 win.
GAME TWO, IONA 3 - MARIST 0: In the second game, the pitching of Iona's Alyssa Maiese was the story as she would shut out the Red Foxes on the strength of nine strikeouts.
Three runs by the Gaels over the third and fourth innings would be enough as the Red Foxes were never able to string together two hits in an inning versus Maiese.
Game One starter Emily Osterhaus started for the Red Foxes in Game Two and gave a valiant effort before giving way to Paige Lewis (Temecula, Calif.) in the third inning. The sophomore hurler pitched the final 3.1 innings.
With this outcome along with a doubleheader sweep by Fairfield over Siena, the Red Foxes were able to clinch a spot in the 2012 MAAC Tournament as the four seed.
The Red Foxes will begin their run to the MAAC Championship on Thursday as they host the tournament. They will face off with #1 Iona on Thursday afternoon.