Softball: #6 Norwich vs. #4 Albertus Magnus – GNAC Playoff Preview

Rachel Johnson - GNAC Sofbtall Tournament marketing shot

NORTHFIELD, Vt. – The Norwich University softball team continues its quest for its first Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Tournament title on Saturday morning when it travels to Providence, R.I. to take on No. 4-seed Albertus Magnus in GNAC Tournament Loser's Bracket action at 10:30 a.m. 

Norwich and Albertus Magnus are both 1-1 so far in the GNAC Tournament with the Cadets beating Emmanuel 7-2 in the first round and the falling to Suffolk 4-0 in the second round. Albertus Magnus received a bye as the No. 4 seed and mercy-ruled Simmons 9-0 to advance to the winner's bracket semifinals, where they lost 13-12 to Johnson & Wales. 

Norwich (15-20-1, 12-10 GNAC) is making its seventh GNAC postseason appearance in the last nine years. Albertus Magnus (28-14, 15-7 GNAC) is making its fourth straight GNAC Tournament appearance and have set a new program record for wins in a single-season this year. 

The two teams will meet in the GNAC Tournament for the first time since 2014 when the Cadets downed the Falcons 5-4 in a first round matchup on the NU Softball Field. 

WHAT'S AT STAKE: The winner of Saturday morning's game will advance in the GNAC Tournament Loser's Bracket to take on the winner of Saint Joseph's (Maine) vs. Simmons at 5:30 p.m. No. 3-seed Suffolk will meet No. 1-seed Johnson & Wales in the winner's bracket championship game at 3 p.m. Norwich will need to win five straight games in order to claim the 2017 GNAC Tournament title. If the Cadets advance to Sunday, they would need to win three games starting at 10 a.m. and the beat the winner's bracket undefeated team twice in the finals. All remaining games will be played at Johnson & Wales in Providence, R.I. 

ALL-TIME SERIES: Norwich leads the all-time series with Albertus Magnus 28-11 and has won three of the last four meetings between the two schools. The Cadets swept AMC in a doubleheader at home in 2016 and then the two teams split the regular season series this year in New Haven. NU won the first game 2-0 and then fell 7-0 in Game 2. 

THE COACHES:  Norwich is led by Mike Kemp, who has guided the Cadets to a 15-10-1 record since taking over midway through this season for Julie Craig, who had to step down due to a military relocation assignment. Albertus Magnus is led by Ed Emielita, who is in his seventh season at the helm of the program.  He is 127-141 in his career at AMC and was named the GNAC Coach of the Year in 2015. 

SCOUTING THE CADETS: Norwich is led offensively by sophomores Naomi Rinaldo (Middlefield, Conn.) and Madison Miller (Long Lake, N.Y.), who have 47 and 45 hits this season respectively. Miller has a .405 batting average, which ranks ninth in the GNAC to go along with 16 RBIs and 17 runs scored. Rinaldo has three home runs and 30 RBIs from the No. 3 spot in the order. 

Freshmen Makenna Wade (Pensacola, Fla.) and Katie Reid (Gold Canyon, Ariz.) are hitting .357 and .306 respectively with 16 and 10 RBIs as well. Wade hit her first collegiate grand slam in a 7-2 win over Emmanuel in the first round. 

On the mound, the sophomore pitching tandem of Rachel Johnson (Stockbridge, Vt.) and Emily Oliver (Sagamore Hills, Ohio) have been a dynamic duo for the Cadets this season. Johnson leads the GNAC with 180 strikeouts and ranks in the top 10 in Division III for strikeouts-per-7-innings. She has also compiled a 10-8 record and a 2.52 earned run average. Oliver is 5-10 with a 4.08 earned run average. 

SCOUTING THE FALCONS: Albertus Magnus is led offensively by GNAC Player of the Year-candidate Gillian Fortier, who has 10 home runs and 50 RBIs with a .447 batting average. She leads the GNAC with 63 hits. The Falcons hit .345 as a team with Daysia Wehder and Briana Whitfield coming in at .375 and .387 averages. Wehder has five home runs and 39 RBIs, while Whitfield has two home runs and 21 RBIs. Melissa Castillo has seven home runs and 32 RBIs, while Laura Anderson has four homers and 32 RBIs as well. 

Anderson and Megan Ferraro have formed a potent 1-2 pitching combo for the Falcons. Anderson is 12-5 with a 3.12 ERA and 63 strikeouts, while Ferraro is 13-5 with a 2.71 ERA.  

BY THE NUMBERS:

(Conference rank) 

RUNS-

Albertus Magnus: 279 (2nd)
Norwich: 149 (6th

HITS-

Albertus Magnus: 412 (1st)
Norwich: 276 (6th

HOMERUNS-

Albertus Magnus: 29 (4th)
Norwich: 5 (6th

RBIS-

Albertus Magnus: 256 (2nd)
Norwich: 124 (7th

BATTING AVERAGE-

Albertus Magnus: .345 (2nd)
Norwich: .276 (6th

ERA:
Albertus Magnus: 3.36 (4th)
Norwich: 3.50 (5th) 

STRIKEOUTS-

Albertus Magnus: 136 (6th)
Norwich: 227 (1st) 

FIELDING PERCENTAGE-

Albertus Magnus: .970 (2nd)
Norwich: .951 (5th)