Ewing, NJ... Clutching hitting and a two-hit performance from its pitcher keyed The College of New Jersey softball team to a win in the opening round of the New Jersey Athletic Conference Tournament as the Lions blanked visiting Richard Stockton College 3-0 on Tuesday.
Third-seeded TCNJ (26-11) continues in the winner’s bracket of the tournament and will face second-seeded Montclair State University (38-3) at 3 p.m. on Friday, May 3. The weekend portion of the tournament is being hosted by top-seeded Rowan University.
With the loss, fourth-seeded Richard Stockton (30-10) will take on Rowan at 1 p.m. on Friday in an elimination game.
Freshman pitcher Ashtin Helmer (Succasunna, NJ/Roxbury) was dialed in all game for the Lions allowing just two hits with seven strikeouts. She yielded a hit in the second inning and then retired 10 batters, with the other hit coming in the final inning. The shutout was Helmer’s seventh of the season as she improved to 16-3 on the year.
The Lions entered the game as the top hitting team in the conference at .328, and bettered that number on Tuesday collecting seven hits in 21 official at bats against a team that ranked second in the NJAC in earned-run-average (0.89)..
The teams were scoreless through the first three innings, before the Lions broke through for a run in the fourth. Junior Lindsay Williams (Roxbury, NJ/Roxbury) singled and moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt. Freshman Deanna Utter (Byram, NJ/Lenape Valley) then came through with a big hit as she doubled down the line in left to score Williams and put the hosts in front 1-0.
TCNJ doubled that advantage in the fifth when senior Liz Huttner (Princeton Junction, NJ/West Windsor-Plainsboro South) drilled a doubled into the gap in left center and scored two batters later on a sacrifice fly to center by classmate Kelly Hommen (Ridgewood, NJ/Ridgewood).
The Lions padded their lead with an insurance run in the sixth. Pinch-hitter Kristen Fitzsimmons (Sayreville, NJ/Sayreville War Memorial) singled to left and a two-base error allowed Corinne Minicozzi (Hawthorne, NJ/Hawthorne) to score from first.
Huttner finished with a pair of hits for TCNJ.
Richard Stockton’s Michelle Pietrocola (North Brunswick, NJ/North Brunswick) took the loss for the Ospreys allowing the three runs, with two of them earned.
Junior Nicole Scanlon (Colonia, NJ/Colonia) had a double for the Ospreys.