Courtesy: Fairfield University

Stags Win 2017 MAAC Championship Behind Pallotto's No-Hitter

Courtesy: Fairfield University
May 14, 2017

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. -- After tossing back-to-back two-hit shutouts, it would seem impossible for pitcher Destinee Pallotto to top those performances. But somehow, the right hander found a way by tossing a no-hitter in the 2017 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Softball Championship Tournament title game and leading the Fairfield University softball team to the title with a 2-0 win over Monmouth University.

"I probably had a no hitter in high school but this was so significant for me," Pallotto said. "This was a total team effort. I had my defense behind me and I had people hitting for me offensively. I could not have done this without the team. I wanted the ball in my hand today so bad and I really wanted to bring home a win today for my teammates."

The Stags won their second title in three years and will advance to the NCAA tournament for the second time in program history. Fairfield won all four of its games in this year's MAAC tournament and trailed only once in the four games. The team became the first sixth-seeded team to win the title and the first to reach the championship round since Manhattan accomplished it in 2014. 

"The senior and Destinee willed us through the tournament," Head Coach Julie Brzezinski said. "They are a resilient group. We just kept getting on base and different players kept coming through during the tournament."

This was as much as a pitcher's duel as one could hope for as both student-athletes seemed to be on their game from the opening inning. Monmouth's Amanda Riley had trouble finding the strike zone early and walked five through the first four innings without allowing a hit. Yet, the Stags were still able to scratch across one run despite going hitless.

In the top of the third inning, Rachel Sieber and Angelina McGuire both worked out a walk to put runners on first and second with no one out. After a failed sacrifice attempt, Courtney Hankins advanced the runners with a ground out, bringing Tori Reed to the plate.

The catcher, who led the team in RBI in the tournament, managed to get the run home in an unconventional way. She missed a two-strike pitch in the dirt for the third strike, but the ball squirted past the catcher. Reed took off for first base and reached safely while Sieber ran home for the game's first run.

With a run in hand, Pallotto seemed that she had all she needed to lead the Stags to victory. After retiring the first 11 hitters she faced in the game, Pallotto yielded a two-out walk to Justene Reyes on a 3-2 pitch. Reyes would be the only base runner of the game as Pallotto sent down the final 10 Monmouth batters of the game.

Over the two MAAC tournament games in which she faced Monmouth, only Reyes managed to reach base against Pallotto, collecting both hits on Friday and a walk today. Excluding Reyes, the rest of Monmouth's lineup went 0 for 40 against Pallotto in those two tournament games. Plus, Pallotto pitched 12 scoreless innings in a 1-0 13-inning win over Monmouth in the regular-season, giving the junior 26 consecutive scoreless innings against this team.

Fairfield would rally one more time to provide insurance for Pallotto, posting a run in the top of the fifth inning. McGuire opened the inning with the team's first hit against Riley, a single through the left side of the infield. Ulzheimer's grounder to third base was mishandled and allowed the freshman to reach base. After strikeout, Reed's fielder's choice allowed her to reach but forced McGuire at third base, keeping the status quo. Kristen Ball followed with a base hit to right field to chase home Ulzheimer and double the Stags' lead at 2-0.

"With a two-run lead, pitchers can attack more and not be conservative," Brzezinski said. "I know Des wanted that second run and once she got it, I knew she would be fine. She has a will and a drive like no other to get things done. She is a gamer and someone that you always want on the mound."

Pallotto finished the game with four strikeouts and one walk, ending the tournament with 25 consecutive scoreless innings. She was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player and was joined by McGuire, Ulzheimer, Reed, and Ball on the MAAC All-Tournament team.

Fairfield will find out its NCAA opponent and destination tonight when the NCAA Softball Selection Show airs on ESPN2 beginning at 10 p.m.




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