|RMU Falls Short in Longest NEC Tournament Game|
Moon Township, Pa. - After winning its Northeast Conference (NEC) Tournament opener Thursday afternoon in relatively comfortable fashion, the Robert Morris University softball team was eliminated from postseason play Friday with a pair of heartbreaking, one-run losses, the latter of which came in a marathon, 12-inning affair.
RMU dropped its winners' bracket game Friday morning to LIU Brooklyn, 1-0, before falling to Quinnipiac, 4-3, in an elimination game that lasted over three hours and was the longest NEC Tournament game in league history.
Although the Colonials' season came to a sudden close, RMU did complete the year with a program-record 35 wins while claiming its second-consecutive regular-season NEC title.
Senior Jaci Timko (Houston, Pa. / Chartiers Houston) and freshman Nicole Sleith (Smithton, Pa. / Yough) both claimed NEC All-Tournament Team honors for their strong performances during the event.
Timko went 5-for-10 overall with a double, three walks, a steal, two runs scored and a RBI to close an incredible career. Sleith allowed five earned runs in 23.1 innings to post a 1.50 ERA while tallying 24 strikeouts against a single walk, concluding her rookie season in fine fashion.
Timko wrapped up her time at RMU with a .359 career average and will depart as the program's all-time leading hitter as her mark is 14 points clear of the next closest student-athlete. During the season finale against Quinnipiac, Timko became just the second Colonial ever to surpass 200 career hits and also finished second at RMU in career home runs with 27. She also completed her four years with a program-record 130 runs scored along with 92 RBI, which ranks fourth in career history. Timko hit .355 in 2012 to claim three of the top 21 single-season batting averages in school history while tallying 35 runs scored.
Sleith closed her first-collegiate season with a 1.59 ERA, which sits as the fourth-lowest in RMU single-season history and the best by a Colonial since 1998. During Friday's opener against LIU, she broke the Colonials' record for single-season innings pitched, and now tops the chart with 247, as she moved past the previous record that her current assistant coach, Lauren Dickinson, set during her junior season. She finished third in single-season strikeouts at RMU with 251 and sixth in winning percentage (.694) and had previously broken Robert Morris' record for single-season wins (25). During her final 20 starts of the season, Sleith posted an amazing 150 strikeouts against just 15 walks.
Senior Sarah Capp (McKees Rocks, Pa. / Montour) went 4-for-9 on the day to conclude the best season of her four-year career. With that effort, Capp moved into fourth in single-season hits at RMU (64) and closed the 2012 campaign with a .366 average, a mark which ranks 13th best in Colonial history. Capp also finished among the top 10 in career RBI (84) and doubles (22) at Robert Morris.
Freshman Tess Apke (Mt. Lebanon, Pa. / Mt. Lebanon) went 3-for-9 with a double on the day and extended her hitting streak to a team season-high 13 games. During that stretch, Apke is hitting .383 (18-for-47).
In its opener against the Blackbirds, LIU had singles in both the second and third innings but could do nothing with them.
Sophomore Chelsea Siar (Glenshaw, Pa. / Shaler Area) started the bottom half of the third with a single to left and moved to second on a groundout. With two down, Apke laced a single into left, and Siar came charging home, but she was thrown out at the plate to close the frame.
Timko doubled with two outs in the fourth, but a strikeout ended the chance. After the Blackbirds went down in order in the fifth, Siar singled with one out, but a line-drive double play sent the game to the sixth still scoreless.
LIU got a two-out double in the sixth, but Sleith would strand the runner with a looking strikeout. However, the Blackbirds would get the only run they would need with a leadoff homer to right center in the seventh.
Capp singled to center to start the home half of the seventh, and RMU got a runner to second with two outs, but a groundout closed out a quick opening game.
Siar notched her 10th multi-hit game of the season and the 19th of her career in the opener.
Unlike RMU's game against the Blackbirds, the Colonials' second game of the day was filled with multiple chances for both sides.
Quinnipiac struck first by tallying three runs in the third on the strength of five singles, two of the infield variety, and a hit-batter.
RMU would get one of those runs back in the bottom half as Apke, Capp and Timko singled to load the bases, and then a wild pitch scored the rookie. The Colonials would leave the other two runners on base as a pair of strikeouts closed out the threat.
The Bobcats maintained their 3-1 lead into the late innings, but RMU mustered up a rally in the sixth to stave off defeat for the time being. Timko lined a single to right on a full count to start the frame and moved up to third one out later when freshman Samantha Santillo (Ellwood City, Pa. / Lincoln) singled through the middle. With two outs, an error on a Bobcat infielder allowed Timko to score and put runners on the corners with two down. RMU proceeded to execute a perfect double-steal as senior Allie Patton (Poland, Ohio / Poland) came racing home and beat a return throw to the plate by slapping the plate while sliding around the catcher.
After Sleith threw a 1-2-3 seventh inning, RMU had a great chance to win it in the home half when Apke led off with an opposite-field double and took third on a sacrifice by redshirt senior Jessica Calderone (Wilmington, Del. / St. Mark's), but a pair of groundouts would not bring home the winning run.
The extra innings were filled with chances for both sides as each team had at least one runner on base in the eighth, ninth and 10th innings.
The Bobcats would bring home the eventual winning run in the 12th with a single, a sacrifice, a single and a sacrifice fly.
Santillo walked on a full count to open the home half of the 12th, but back-to-back fielder's choices and a groundout would bring the Colonials' 2012 campaign to an untimely finish.
RMU continued to display impressive run prevention in the NEC Tournament. In its final 14 games against conference opponents in 2012, the Colonials conceded just 15 earned runs.
Siar tied the single-season school record for walks (29) by drawing a base on balls in the second inning against the Bobcats.
Calderone increased her program-record games played total to 198 and finished third in all-time hits with 192. She also ranked fourth in career runs (104), tied for eighth in doubles (22) and 12th in career batting average (.316).
Patton moved up into a tie for fourth in career appearances in an RMU uniform (183), slid into eighth in career runs (94) and finished in 13th in career batting average (.316).