Senior Danielle DeStaso clobbered a three-run homer in the top of the fifth inning to complete a three- run comeback, and the Seton Hall softball team tacked on three more late as the third-seeded Pirates topped second-seeded DePaul, 9-5, in the semifinals of the Big East Championship on Friday.
The Pirates (25-27) have won their first Big East Championship game since 2005 which also was the last time The Hall reached the tournament final and took home the title.
DeStaso’s home run came at a time when Seton Hall needed it most. The Pirates went into the top of the fifth trailing 5-2 after DePaul put up pairs of runs in the second and third innings and a single run in the fourth. Junior Yasmin Harrell started the rally when she reached first base after an illegal DePaul substitution. Senior Whitney Jones followed with an opposite-field single to right, and freshman Alexis Walkden drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch.
After senior Sara Haefeli hit into a 6-5 fielder’s choice that scored Harrell, DeStaso stepped to the plate and drove Maxine Rodriguez’s first pitch over the centerfield wall for the three-run homer to put the Pirates on top, 6-5. It was DeStaso’s 12th round-tripper of the season and 35th of her career. She also moved into sole possession of second place in program history in career RBI, moving up to 125.
Seton Hall then tacked on three more in the sixth inning when Walkden and Haefeli came up with runners on first and third and each found the left-side hole, splitting the Blue Demons third baseman and shortstop with ground balls in successive at-bats to drive in a pair of runs. Jones scored SHU’s ninth and final run of the game on a wild pitch.
That was all senior Casey Moses needed on the mound. She came on in relief of DeStaso in the third inning, and though she gave up three runs, she settled down once Seton Hall gave her the 9-5 lead, allowing only one baserunner in her final three innings of work. She was aided by an incredible catch in center by Haefeli at the base of the outfield wall in the top of the seventh, and she then she struck out DePaul’s Gena Lenti to end the game as the Pirates celebrated their victory near home plate.
Moses finished the game having thrown five innings of relief and allowing three runs on five hits. She walked three, struck out four and improved to 5-3 on the season. DeStaso pitched the first two frames, giving up two runs on three hits with two walks and no strikeouts. But she came through at the plate, going 3 for 4 with four RBI on the day. In addition to her three-run blast, she knocked in Seton Hall’s second run of the day with an RBI single to left in the third inning that tied the game at 2-2, though Harrell was thrown out at home on the play trying to plate a third run.
Seton Hall will look to claim its third Big East Championship in program history Saturday as it takes on either No. 1 St. John’s or No. 4 Villanova. A win will send the Pirates into the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in team history and the first time since 2005.