|Meaghan Dowdell||Jennifer Sweeney||Megan Zinn|
|Heather Alich||Casey DeSarno||Mackenzie Duffy|
BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Sophomore Meaghan Dowdell (Parlin, N.J./Old Bridge) was named the Most Valuable Player, as The University of Scranton softball team made history on Saturday at Moravian, winning three straight contests over an afternoon to take their first Landmark Conference Championship in program history, taking a game over Moravian (9-6), then a pair of games over Susquehanna (5-2, 7-2).
With the win, Scranton (now 32-13 overall) won their first Landmark Conference title, and their first conference championship of any kind since winning the MAC Northern Division in 1991. The team also clinched a bid into the 2019 NCAA Division III Championships with the victory, as the Royals will make an appearance in the field for the first time since 1983 next weekend.
Scranton 9, Moravian 6 | Box Score
To even get to the championship round, Scranton had to once again knock off 10th-ranked and host Moravian to open the day on Saturday.
Things got off to a good start in the game, as the Royals struck with three runs to open the game in the first inning on an RBI singles by sophomores Jennifer Sweeney (Wind Gap./Dumont) and Maggie Donnelly (New Hyde Park, N.Y./Our Lady of Mercy Academy), while junior Megan Zinn (Bridgewater, N.J./Bridgewater-Raritan) scored on a wild pitch to give Scranton the early 3-0 lead.
Moravian, however, quickly tied the game back up at 3-3 with three runs of their own in the top of the second. But, Scranton punched back in the bottom of the frame, scoring twice to go back up, 5-3, after two. In the second, Zinn had an RBI single, while sophomore Mackenzie Duffy (Wilkes-Barre, Pa./Lackawanna Trail) scored on a Moravian error to put Scranton back up by two.
But, once again, Moravian punched back, scoring three runs over the fourth and fifth innings to take a 6-5 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning. There, the Royals rallied to knock out the Greyhounds.
In the frame, Duffy quickly tied the game up with an RBI double that scored freshman Jessica Indelicato (Bethlehem, Pa./Bethlehem Catholic). But, on the play, Moravian made a costly throwing error that scored Duffy, giving Scranton the lead back at 7-6.
Later in the frame and with two outs, freshman Heather Alich (Bath, Pa./Northampton Area) put away Moravian for the weekend, as she smacked a two-run home run over the left field fence to put the Royals up for good at 9-6.
In the seventh, Moravian was only able to get one on base and that was it, as Scranton eliminated the top-seeded Greyhound with the come-from-behind three-run win.
Overall in the win, Duffy led the way offensively, going 2-for-3 with an RBI and three runs scored. In the pitching circle, Sweeney earned the win, while Dowdell picked up her first save of the season after tossing three and two-thirds in relief, allowing just one run on three hits.
Scranton 5, Susquehanna 2 | Box Score
In the championship round for the second straight year, Scranton needed to beat Susquehanna twice to take the Landmark title and did so easily in the first game of the series after Dowdell extinguished a hot Susquehanna offense.
The first victory over the River Hawks saw Scranton take an insurmountable 5-0 lead in the sixth inning, capped off by a two-run home run by junior Casey DeSarno (Wall Township, N.J./Wall) that put the Royals up five entering the seventh inning.
There, Susquehanna tried to rally, scoring twice on Dowdell, but it wasn't enough, as the Royals forced a winner-take-all title game with the three-run win.
Overall in the ballgame, Zinn was 2-for-2 with a double, an RBI and a run scored. Alich also had an RBI double in the win, while Indelicato posted the game's first RBI on a sacrifice fly.
In the pitching circle, Dowdell was terrific, tossing a complete game, allowing just two runs on six hits, while striking out two.
Scranton 7, Susquehanna 2 | Box Score
In their third game of the day, the Royals didn't skip a beat, as Scranton once again took an early lead and rode another strong start by Dowdell to the conference crown.
To open the game, Sweeney smacked an RBI double in the first inning to give the Royals the early 1-0 lead. This was followed up by a big two-RBI single by Alich that scored Sweeney and Zinn to give Scranton an early 3-0 lead after one inning of play.
That lead held into the fourth, when Susquehanna scored a run to make it a 3-1 lead for the Royals. Scranton continued to hold a two-run lead into the fifth, where Sweeney with one swing of the bat put the Royals up three, as her solo home run on the first pitch of her at-bat put Scranton up, 4-1, entering the sixth.
In the bottom of that inning, the Royals effectively ended Susquehanna's 2019 season, as they tallied three more runs on a pair of two-out RBI hits by Zinn and Sweeney.
Zinn first had an RBI single that scored sophomore Allie Hotchkiss (Baldwinsville, N.Y./Charles W. Baker), making it a 5-1 game. Then, Sweeney finished off an absolutely dominant effort at the dish with a two-RBI single that scored Zinn and Duffy, effectively putting the Royals up for good at 7-1 entering the seventh.
In the final frame, Susquehanna scored one off Dowdell, but it was too little, too late, as the sophomore finished off the historic win for Scranton with a ground out.
Overall, Sweeney was an absolute force in the title game, recording her 100th career hit on a 3-for-4, four RBI, two run performance in which she had a home run and a double (the only two extra base hits Scranton had in the entire game).
Zinn, meanwhile, finished off a strong day going 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored, and Alich finished off the game going 2-for-3 with two RBI.
The University of Scranton softball team will now await to see who and where they will play in the 2019 NCAA Championships. The full field will be announced on Monday at 1 p.m. at NCAA .com.
Fans are reminded to follow Scranton Athletics on Twitter @RoyalAthletics for information on the softball teams selection into the NCAA Tournament as it becomes available.