RIVER HAWKS MAKE A STATEMENT IN FIRST YEAR OF FULL DI ELIGIBILITY
LOWELL, Mass. – In 2018, the UMass Lowell softball team set out to make a statement in its first year of full Division I eligibility.
For the second consecutive year, the River Hawks took second place in the final America East regular-season standings with a 12-5 record in league games. Not only did the team match a Division I program best for conference wins, but for overall wins, as well, with a 21-28 mark in 2018 with a schedule that featured six NCAA Tournament qualifiers.
“I think finishing in second place for the second straight year shows that it wasn’t a fluke and this team is here to stay,” said Head Coach Danielle Henderson. “This is who our team is. We are going to fight and show a lot of poise, and I do think we have made a name for ourselves in this league.”
The team took full advantage of its first year of post-season eligibility at the Division I level, making noise at the America East Championship and battling right to the very end.
The No. 2 seeded River Hawks opened the conference tournament with a 5-1 victory against No. 3 Stony Brook on May 10, becoming the first women’s team at UMass Lowell to earn a Division I post-season win. The squad then rallied for five runs in the eighth inning to upset No. 1 UAlbany, 5-2, in the winners’ bracket final the following afternoon and take a spot in the title game.
“We were a very young team and this season served as some great experience,” commented Henderson. “The team learned a lot, they learned how to battle, how to fight. We talk about what being in a conference championship is like and we could explain all the emotions and all that, but I thought it was great that they actually got to witness it. There is nothing like actually being in it and fighting through it.”
On Championship Sunday, the River Hawks continued to make history, becoming just the second team at UMass Lowell to appear in the America East title game. Although the squad was unable to fend off the top-seeded Great Danes, Coach Henderson sees the whole experience as extremely valuable to her program.
“Overall, I thought it was successful. Even though I know the team would have liked to finish first, it left us with a little bit of hunger and that’ll make us want to come back stronger next year.”
As a team in 2018, the River Hawks set Division I program records and led the America East with 74 doubles and 510 total bases. The squad also matched the DI program record for most walks with a league-leading 144 free passes.
The season was highlighted by several memorable outcomes, as the River Hawks seemed to perform their best under pressure, boasting a 5-0 record in extra innings in 2018. Most notably, the squad battled to a 5-4, walk-off victory against Maine on April 24, as junior Sydney Barker (Upland, California) and freshman Maria Moccio (Feeding Hills, Mass.) went yard in back-to-back at-bats in the bottom of the eighth.
Freshman Lovina Capria (Deltona, Fla.) earned one of the America East’s four major awards, marking the second consecutive season that the league’s Rookie of the Year has come from UMass Lowell. A three-time America East Pitcher of the Week, Capria led the River Hawks’ pitching staff with 11 wins and four shutouts, both of which set single-season, Division I program records. She totaled 95 strikeouts with a 2.92 ERA, as well. The right-handed pitcher was also named to the 2018 All-Conference Second Team and the America East All-Rookie Team.
Junior Kaysee Talcik (Shelton, Conn.) was one of three team members to garner All-Conference First Team accolades. The pitcher paced the America East with a career-high 115 strikeouts, becoming the first River Hawk pitcher to surpass 100 strikeouts in a single season at the Division I level. She boasted a 2.88 overall ERA, including a 0.67 ERA in 21 innings pitched at the conference tournament to help her earn a spot on the 2018 America East All-Championship Team.
UMass Lowell’s middle infield made up of sophomores Courtney Cashman (Danvers, Mass.) and Marianne Sparacia (Spring Hill, Fla.), also received First Team nods. An All-Championship Team selection, as well, Cashman batted a team-best .345 and led the River Hawks in several other categories, while pacing the league with 18 doubles. Her 18 two-baggers also tied for second on the program’s all-time, single-season record list.
Sparacia followed closely with a .313 average to notch her second All-Conference recognition.
Senior Vanessa Cooper (Pleasant Gap, Pa.) and redshirt-sophomore Casey Harding (Cheshire, Conn.) was tabbed Second Team selections. Cooper, who rounded out the squad’s three All-Championship Team honorees, batted .230 in 2018, including a .340 average in conference play.
Harding tied for first on the squad with five home runs and finished second with 20 RBI while hitting .294. The outfielder was also named to the All-Academic Team with a 3.645 GPA as a civil engineering major.
Sara Siteman (Hudson, N.H.) and Maria Moccio (Feeding Hills, Mass.) both made statements in their debut seasons, capped off by All-Rookie Team nods. Siteman paced the league with three Rookie of the Week titles in 2018 and her America East best 30 walks ranked second on the school’s single-season record list. The catcher also posted a team-high 23 RBI with a .298 batting average.
Moccio came on strong towards the end of the regular-season, batting .278 in conference play. She totaled 11 RBI with 16 hits.
Senior Samantha McQueen (Ewing, N.J.) concluded the River Hawks’ record-setting nine All-Conference selections with her All-Academic Team nod as a biology major, who boasted a 3.749 GPA.
UMass Lowell says farewell to five graduates in 2018. Madison Alcorn (Lowell, Mass.), Vanessa Cooper, Colleen Frank (Berkeley Heights, N.J.), Samantha McQueen and Kate Mims (West Chester, Pa.) will long be remembered for helping to build a solid foundation for a young Division I program.
“This was the first class that I’ve been with for all four years, so I really got a chance to see them grow,” concluded Henderson. “I am confident that this class is going to be successful in everyday life. I’ve seen how much they’ve matured and how they handle themselves on a daily basis. To see that evolution, I know that no matter what they do in life they will be successful.”