Big East

Seton Hall Softball Runs Table For First BIG EAST Title In 18 Years

Seton Hall Softball Runs Table For First BIG EAST Title In 18 Years

An afterthought by most observers across the conference entering the season, Seton Hall instead has come along in 2023 and embarked on a dream season.

May 14, 2023 by Briar Napier
Seton Hall Softball Runs Table For First BIG EAST Title In 18 Years

Congratulations, and welcome back to the big time, Seton Hall.

An afterthought by most observers across the conference entering the season, the Pirates instead have come along in 2023 and embarked on a dream season. 

It officially will continue, after the Pirates claimed an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, with the program emerging victorious in the BIG EAST Championship final for the first time in 18 years.

It was by no means a fluke, either. 

The Hall never lost this week in the conference’s annual postseason tournament, needing only one of a possible two tries to beat a three-peat-chasing Villanova, as it earned the right to be called the BIG EAST’s official representative in a NCAA Regional tournament later this month.

Wherever it goes next, Seton Hall softball is on the ride of a generation and features a lethal core of players who can take it to the best of teams on any given day. 

Though the rest of the BIG EAST may be a bit biased, considering how often it’s seen them, any team the Pirates beat this week probably will tell you the same thing – you don’t want to see The Hall in your regional right about now.

Here’s a look at the run for Seton Hall softball that resulted in a return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in nearly two decades. The Pirates will find out their regional assignment later this weekend.

Pirates Pound Out Runs, Take Down Villanova In Rematch

Seton Hall had two chances to win its first BIG EAST Softball Championship since 2005, but it only needed one to complete the feat. 

Unbeaten in tournament play going into Saturday, the Pirates had combined for 20 runs in their three games entering the title series and already prevailed once against the Wildcats in the conference tourney, taking down the two-time defending champions 9-6 in an extra-inning thriller Thursday. 

With Saturday’s win, The Hall ensured that its second postseason game against ‘Nova (which needed to beat Seton Hall twice Saturday in order to win the tournament) was much more drama-free. 

A four-run second inning was exactly the kind of start that the Pirates needed to get the mojo going – helped by RBI base hits toward the bottom of the order from Olivia Gilbert and Ashly Colonnetta – while insurance runs in the third and fifth innings, the latter of which came from a solo Gilbert homer, merely added comfort in a tense situation for the program. 

But even while being entrusted with the biggest game of her college career, the recently named BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year and Seton Hall’s two-way superstar, Kelsey Carr, didn’t flinch with the spotlight on her. 

The junior went all seven innings and never let the Wildcats find a groove, limiting them to one earned run (despite seven hits), as the Pirates trusted their standout in the circle and followed her all the way to a long-awaited piece of hardware. 

An RBI single from pinch-hitter Brooke Ostrowski in the sixth inning gave Villanova a brief glimpse of life with its back against the wall and its hopes of a three-peat fading away, but Carr didn’t let the Wildcats do further damage. 

Carr forced a fly-out an inning later with two ‘Nova runners stranded on base to officially seal the deal – and clinch Seton Hall’s ticket to a NCAA Regional.

Two-Way Stars Smith, Carr Shine On Biggest Stage

Shelby Smith had her quietest game of the BIG EAST Championship on Saturday and still went 2-for-4 at the plate. 

But make no mistake, the Pirates wouldn’t have gotten this far in the postseason had it not been for the standout performances shown all week from the Texan, who was named the tournament’s most outstanding player at its conclusion. 

She’s a fantastic two-way player in her own right – she’s 16-6 with a 2.63 ERA on the mound, while averaging .338 with eight homers and 38 RBIs at the plate this year – who can get overshadowed at times by Carr.

But no one who watched the BIG EAST Championship overlooked her this time around, as she went 8-for-13 with two home runs, three doubles and 11 RBIs as the main driver of the Pirates’ offense this week.

Her BIG EAST Championship- record seven RBIs against Villanova on Thursday, in particular, was the stuff of which program legends are made. 

Not only did Smith get the win on the mound (and threw a nine-inning complete game to do it), but her three-run blast in the ninth, while already having four RBIs, walked it off for The Hall. 

Crucially, it also sent her squad to Friday’s semifinals with an unblemished tourney record in the double-elimination format, something that came in handy in preparation for when the Pirates and Wildcats squared off again just two days later. It gave Seton Hall some leeway Saturday, if things did go awry in the opening game. 

Carr was fantastic throughout the tournament, as well, and had about as sweet of a return season as possible, after missing the entire 2022 season due to injury, but without Smith – who also had a critical grand slam in a tense 6-4 win Friday over regular-season champion UConn – the Pirates would’ve been lacking firepower and found it much harder to get through the best of the BIG EAST this week.

What’s Next For Seton Hall?

Forgive Seton Hall if it needs to adjust a bit to being at this point. It has been 18 years of waiting, after all. 

Following a successful stretch in the early-to-mid-2000s, in which the Pirates’ program made three NCAA Tournaments from 2001-2005, Hall softball, for the most part, went into a bit of a dark age. 

The Pirates only had one season over .500 (and none after 2006) from 2005’s league tourney win to the beginning of this year, which has seen Seton Hall make a complete turnaround under the BIG EAST’s Coaching Staff of the Year, led by second-year head coach Angie Churchill. 

Picked to finish seventh in the league’s preseason coaches’ poll, The Hall instead (likely) is the league’s last team standing. The 2023 Pirates are entering the NCAA tourney field as just the second 40-win team in program history, with four more victories needed to tie the all-time mark of 46 set in 2004. 

The BIG EAST’s representative on the biggest stage in college softball, the Pirates (who hold a 3-6 all-time record in the NCAA tourney) will find out their regional destination Sunday night at 7 p.m. (ET), when the field is released. 

Though changes are likely to be fluid from the time of this writing all the way to the selection show, College Sports Madness – which has been conducting NCAA Regional projections that were updated throughout the weekend with the conclusions of conference tournaments – has Seton Hall, as of Saturday night, slated to be placed in the Austin Regional, where a trio of former Big 12 rivals – Texas, Texas A&M and Nebraska – await. 

Likely to be underdogs and a No. 4 Regional seed no matter where they’re placed, the Pirates certainly haven’t been deterred by low expectations this season. 

Now, after defying those predictions and shattering the glass ceiling, they’re playing with house money and have nothing to lose.