The Hofstra softball team captured its first Colonial Athletic Association title since 2018 in dramatic fashion and in the process kept a tradition alive for the storied program.
The Pride, aided largely by five fifth-year players who used an extra year of eligibility due to the canceled 2020 season at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, made sure the freshman class from 2019 experienced the taste of a championship and an NCAA regionals appearance after knocking off Towson with a 5-4 walk-off victory on May 13. The come-from-behind win on Hofstra’s home turf of Bill Edwards Stadium in which the Pride trailed 4-2 in the sixth inning, kept the program’s streak going of every freshman class since the school’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in the early 1990s hoisting a championship trophy.
“We had a very special fifth year class who really wanted to be part of that championship culture,” said second-year Hofstra coach Adrienne Clark, who as a player led the Pride to four straight CAA titles from 2002 to 2005. “It was really incredible.”
One of Hofstra’s fifth-year players, Angelina Ioppolo, stepped up in the clutch with Hofstra trailing 4-3 with two outs in the bottom of seventh when she delivered a two RBI bases loaded single to left field setting off a raucous celebration. The hit scored fellow fifth-year player Kasey Collins with the tying run with senior Chelsea Manto then crossing the plate to clinch Hofstra’s 13th CAA title and 21st conference championship overall.
Hofstra faced adversity in the 2023 CAA title run when it fell to that same Towson team 2-1 the previous day to put the Pride in the losers bracket of the double elimination tournament. After staying alive with a 9-8 win against Long Island rival Stony Brook on the evening of May 12, Hofstra forced a deciding game with another elimination win, 6-4, against Towson.
Fifth-year player Meghan Giordano stepped up in the CAA championship run with a key three-run homer in the first Towson win to produce some key insurance when the Pride were clinging to a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning. She then blasted a solo homer in the decisive game to tie the game 2-2 in the fourth inning.
One of the biggest hits in Hofstra’s CAA championship journey came off the bench from junior Brianna Morse when the Mepham High School graduate hit a leadoff double in the bottom of the seventh with the Pride trailing 4-3 to help spark the eventually winning rally.
“She is such an amazing athlete and person,” Clark said of Morse. “We had a lot of unsung heroes on the team.”
Morse’s younger sister, Alanna Morse, had a standout freshman season starting at third base and produced three hits in Hofstra's NCAA regional losses to Oklahoma and Cal.. The game against top-seeded Oklahoma, who entered the tourney at 54-1, on the Sooners' home field was broadcasted nationally on ESPNU.
Another local talent who shined in the postseason was sophomore pitcher Anna Butler of Seaford, who threw two key innings of relief in the 9-8 Stony Brook win and also got time out of the bullpen in both of Hofstra’s NCAA regional games.
“She is extremely competitive in everything that she does,” Clark said of the Seaford High School graduate. “She did an incredible job of mixing up her pitches.”
While Hofstra was shut out in both of its NCAA tourney games against stiff competition, Clark hopes the experience pays dividends as she looks to grow the program back to when she was an assistant coach with the Pride decade ago and the team reached the NCAA super regionals.
“They were fearless in how they approached those games,” she said. “The experience of competing in a regional sets up the success of future teams.”