The Roadrunners softball team earned the first New Jersey Athletic Conference Championship in the program’s history with an 8-2 win against Rowan University on Sunday.
The No. 2 seeded Roadrunners upset the No. 1 Profs in the NJAC Championship and earned a bid to the NCAA DIII Regional Tournament.
“It’s a great accomplishment and not something that we expected in January,” said second year head coach Bridgette Quimpo. “To do it in our second year in the program shows us that our future is bright here at Ramapo College.”
The Roadrunners opened the scoring in the second inning as sophomores Grace Brennan and Nicole Hernandez and junior Danielle Saporito scored a run each to give the Roadrunners a 3-0 edge.
Rowan managed to come back and score one run in both the fourth and fifth inning to make the game a one run contest.
“We knew that three runs was not going to be enough,” Quimpo said. “The good thing is that we’ve played Rowan in the past and we knew what adjustments we needed to make.”
Ramapo answered with four runs from Brennan, juniors Mikayla Melendez and Melissa Moreno and freshman Emily Helmer in the bottom of the fifth inning to take a 7-2 lead into the sixth inning. Senior Kim LaPenta added another run in the sixth inning.
In the game’s final inning, freshman pitcher Christina Brizek struck out Rowan freshman Sierra Machinski to earn the third out of the inning and secure Ramapo softball’s first NJAC Championship.
The Roadrunners out hit the Profs 12-5 in the game, and Brizek struck out three batters and did not give up any walks.
“She was actually out for about a week due to an injury in her back. For her to comeback the way she did, she did such a great job for us. She shut their offense down,” Quimpo said. “I don’t think they were expecting to see her and that was the good part. I think they were expecting to see Katrina Buczkowski.”
The freshman pitching duo of Brizek and Buczkowski limited their opponents' top hitters all season and could arguably be the best pitching pairing in the NJAC for the next three years.
With the win and Conference Championship, the Roadrunners advance to the NCAA Tournament and will play Randolph-Macon College in the first round on Friday in Newport News, Va.
Quimpo and her team said that they are going to continue to take it one game at a time heading into the NCAAs, a formula that has worked well for them this season.
“Everything we have done up until this point has always been about the game that is in front of us,” Quimpo said. “We’re just focusing on our first game, taking care of that first game and then from that point on we will take care of the next game.”
LaPenta, one of Ramapo’s seniors who played the last NJAC game of their career in the Championship against Rowan, echoed her coach’s words concerning the NCAA Tournament.
“This is a very exciting time for our program, but our mindset is really no different that it has been all season,” LaPenta said. “Work hard to get better every day, play selflessly and have fun. That mindset keeps us focused and we take one game at a time.”
Last season, the first under coach Quimpo, the Roadrunners did not qualify for the NJAC Tournament after posting an 8-10 record in the Conference.
This year, the Roadrunners earned the No. 2 seed in the Conference with a 13-4-1 mark. To say that the program has made a quick turnaround would be an understatement.
Both the coaching staff and players were quick to credit one another for the team’s success this season. Quimpo said that each of her players bought into the program coaching philosophy and systems, and never stopped believing in themselves.
“It is such an incredible feeling,” LaPenta said. “Winning meant so much to us as players knowing that all of the heard work we have put in since September has paid off, but it meant equally as much knowing that coach Quimpo got the NJAC title that she deserved. She is truly an irreplaceable coach and when she took over the program we knew it was not a matter of if the program would win the NJAC, but when.”