Heather Tripp stepped to the plate Sunday for Saint Joseph’s College and slammed a fastball that made history.

Tripp homered with two outs and two on in the fifth inning to give the Monks a lead they would hold en route to a 5-4 win over Rivier for the Great Northeast Athletic Conference softball title and the program’s first automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament.

Seedings will be announced Monday. St. Joseph’s likely will be sent to a regional in Rhode Island or upstate New York.

“I’ve always found it stressful walking in and having to put a big hit together, but I had just had a pep talk with my first-base coach,” said Tripp, a third baseman. “She said, ‘Just do what you’ve practiced all along. Swing. Don’t guess at anything. Just play like you know how to.’ “

That’s now the focus for the Monks (34-8), who have gone 25-3 since the start of April to compile the third-most wins in program history. Only the 1996 (38-11) and 1995 (37-9) clubs fared better.

“We’ve had good pitching and good defense all year,” said Coach Jamie Smyth. “Now we’ve just got to continue to do the things that have helped us be successful throughout the season.”

The seniors — Alyssa Dunn of Standish, Natasha Howard of Farmington and Keira Walsh of Benton — had come close many times.

“It was so exciting for me,” said Dunn. “I’m a two-sport athlete here and have been in so many championship games with field hockey and softball. It feels really good to finally do it my senior year.

“To be the team that does it for the first time is really exciting.”

St. Joseph’s has seven players batting better than .300 and four over .400: Emily Leverone (.460), Jill Howard (.403), Danyelle Shufelt (.403) and Lindsay Moore (.402).

The Monks have a 2.45 combined earned-run average with Madylan Kluna leading the way with a 13-3 record and 2.15 ERA, followed by Walsh with a 10-1 record and 3.35 ERA.

Smyth said he scheduled a game Sunday against Husson to keep his team sharp, but he suspects they’ll have no trouble.

“We’ve had some nice sharp practices and worked on defensive situational stuff,” he said. “It’s tough to (wait) but I don’t think any of them are disappointed we’re in the situation.”

The tournament will begin May 12.

Said Tripp: “We’re just practicing like we have been all along, just thinking that it’s just another game.”

UNIVERSITY OF NEW ENGLAND

No. 4 seeded UNE softball (25-16) is in a must-win situation today after losing its opening game in the Commonwealth Coast Conference championships Tuesday.

UNE must beat No. 6 seed Curry College at 2:30 p.m. at host Endicott or end their postseason run in the double-elimination tournament.

The Nor’easters are led by pitcher Julie Bigelow and freshman Amanda Vaudreuil, who were named the league’s pitcher and rookie of the week.

Coach Dan Letellier, in his second year, was named coach of the year by his peers.

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN MAINE

The No. 3 seed women’s lacrosse team advanced to the Little East Conference semifinals with a 12-10 win Tuesday at home against Massachusetts-Dartmouth.

The Huskies, 8-10 overall, will play at No. 2 Keene State at 6 p.m. today.

n The No. 4 ranked men’s tennis team, 9-5 overall, will play top-seeded UMass-Dartmouth today in the LEC semifinals.

USM dispatched Bridgewater State 5-0 in the quarterfinals.

SAINT JOSEPH’S COLLEGE

A league-high eight players from St. Joseph’s were named to the All-GNAC softball team.

Leverone, a junior outfielder, Shufelt, a sophomore outfielder and Moore, a freshman shortstop are on the first team.

Kluna, a junior pitcher from Standish, Dunn, a senior first baseman from Standish, and freshman utility player Jill Howard are on the second team.

Walsh of Benton and freshman second baseman Connie Grovo of Limington made the third team.

Leverone leads the Monks in hits (64), doubles (17), triples (3), home runs (11), RBI (57), total bases (120), slugging percentage (.863) and on-base percentage (.484). She has 20 multiple-hit games with 15 multiple-RBI performances and notched a 17-game hit streak.

Shufelt, who hasn’t been caught stealing in two years, is hitting .403 with a team high in runs (45) and stolen bases (15).

Moore is batting .402 with six doubles, five home runs and 33 RBI in 41 starts.

n Not to be outdone by their counterparts, six players on the GNAC champion baseball team were named to the all-conference teams.

Senior right fielder Todd Keneborus of Hollis Center was named the player of the year and named to the first team with senior infielder Chris Campbell and sophomore first baseman Mike Pratt.

Freshman designated hitter Alex Lorenc was named to the second team, and junior shortstop Dan Achorn and sophomore pitcher Chad Rafferty were named to the third team.

Keneborus leads the Monks in hits (56), runs (35), home runs (4), RBI (38) and slugging percentage (.614), and ranks second on the club in batting average (.424) and OBP (.509).

He recorded 200 career hits last week, becoming just the fifth player in team history to do so. He ranks third all time in slugging percentage (.635), fourth in batting average (.401), and fifth all time in hits (204), RBI (148) and OBP (.478).

He’s also just the third St. Joseph’s player to be named conference player of the year two straight years. Left-hander Charlie Furbush (2005, 2006 — NAC) and Luke Enman ’08 (2007 — NAC, 2008 — GNAC) also did so.

n Three men’s lacrosse players were named to league teams this week.

Junior attackman Jonathan Horgan was named to the first team, and Spencer Hunt and Albert Comins were named to the second team.

UNIVERSITY OF MAINE

Eighty-five student-athletes will graduate Saturday, including basketball player Troy Barnies, who said: “What an incredible four years of college I have had. Going into college I wanted to play basketball and UMaine made my dream come true. I have fulfilled everything I wanted to do during my time at Maine. Being a UMaine student-athlete has been the toughest thing I ever thought I would be able to do, but yet I had the most fun of my life doing it. I wouldn’t have had it any other way: getting a college education and playing the sport that I love while representing my community, my school and my state that I’m from.”

* Shonna Brown has been named the America East interim commissioner by the league following the departure of Patrick Nero to a position at George Washington University.

SOUTHERN MAINE CC

SMCC will host the Yankee Small College Conference baseball championships Sunday at South Portland.

No. 3 ranked SMCC will face No. 2 New Hampshire Technical Institute at 11 a.m.

No. 1 Vermont Technical College then will take on No. 4 Central Maine Community College at 1:30 p.m.

The winners will play for the league title at 4 p.m.

BOWDOIN COLLEGE

The No. 4 seed men’s tennis team (11-5, 6-3 NESCAC) will face No. 5 Tufts at 9 a.m. Friday in the opening round of the NESCAC championships this weekend at Middlebury College in Vermont.

The No. 5 seeded women (12-5, 5-4 NESCAC) will be home against No. 4 seed Middlebury at 1 p.m. Friday.

The winner of Friday’s men’s match will advance to play top-seeded Amherst at 9 a.m. Saturday. Friday’s women’s winner will face top-seeded Amherst at 1 p.m. Saturday.

The championships are Sunday.

* The track team will compete Saturday at the New England Division III championship meet at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Ten athletes were named to All-NESCAC teams this week.

Elsa Millett earned All-NESCAC honors by winning the 200-meter dash, placing third in the 400-meter dash and teaming with the 400-meter relay team to finish in second place.

The three remaining members of the relay team also earned All-NESCAC recognition: Emily Barr, Samantha Copland and Michele Kaufman.

Christina Argueta also received All-NESCAC laurels thanks to a third-place finish in the 5,000-meter run.

* Among the men: Colin Fong led the way with two conference awards for finishing second in the 800-meter run and also placing second with Bowdoin’s distance medley relay team.

Alex Williams, Andrew Gluesing and Matthew Hillard also were recognized for their performance on the medley relay team.

Mason Moss’ second-place finish in the javelin earned him an All-NESCAC spot.

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at:
[email protected]