Seton Hill softball set for World Series run in Denver

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Wednesday, May 25, 2022 | 10:10 AM


It wouldn’t be a stretch to say the Seton Hill softball team has a “Mile High” feeling.

That’s because the Griffins are headed to Denver, the Mile High City, to participate in the NCAA Division II World Series. They’ll open with No. 3 seed Auburn Montgomery (48-11) at 8:30 p.m. Thursday.

The Griffins (41-10) are riding high after winning the Atlantic Super Regional on Saturday by sweeping Kutztown.

Fourth-year coach Jessica Strong was an assistant coach at her alma mater, Armstrong State, when it made the final eight in 2013 and 2014. She hopes that experience will help as she prepares the Griffins for their first trip to the championship.

“I don’t know much about Auburn Montgomery, but any team that makes it to Denver is talented,” Strong said. “We’re enjoying the moment. We’re very excited.”

Seton Hill rolled through the Atlantic Region tournament, first defeating Claflin, S.C. twice and host Shippensburg. Then they swept the No. 1 team in the region, Kutztown.

The team enjoyed solid pitching and timely hitting throughout the tournament, and it came from a mixture of veteran players and underclassmen.

“Because of covid, we had some players take advantage of the extra season granted by the NCAA,” Strong said. “A lot of players wanted that one last ride and to go as far as we could.”

Graduate students Jenna Osikowicz and Morgan Ryan, teammates from their Little League days at West Point and high school at Hempfield, reunited for one final run. Ryan transferred back home from Notre Dame.

“I didn’t know what we were getting from Morgan,” Strong said. “I knew she pitched Division I in the ACC for Notre Dame. She brings a lot of experience and wit. She’s also getting a chance to hit, which she didn’t get at Notre Dame. She keeps team loose with her jokes.”

Ryan is 18-2 with a 1.05 ERA. In 133 1/3 innings, she has struck out 153. She hit .318 with three home runs and 24 RBIs.

“It’s neat that they are back together — long-time friends back together again and headed to the World Series,” Strong said. “I’m sure they can share their experiences in high-pressure games with other players on the team.”

Osikowicz, who is playing with a broken nose, is hitting .457 with 75 hits, 11 doubles, nine triples, three home runs and 30 RBIs. Morgan Toal is hitting .362 with 35 RBIs.

Two freshmen — Grace Paredes and Brooklyn Fukushima — had big games in the regional. Paredes is hitting .363 with 27 RBIs and Fukushima is hitting .299 with 22 RBIs.

Freshman Brooke Cleland (Penn-Trafford) is hitting .282 with seven home runs and 35 RBIs.

Seton Hill has also been forced to overcome some setbacks. They’ve had a few covid scares and lost centerfielder Natalia Greco (Ellwood City) for the season with an injury.

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.

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