Jennifer De Fazio went 3-for-3 with two runs scored and Camille Gaito tossed a complete game two-hitter as the 16th-ranked UC San Diego softball team defeated No. 25 C.W. Post 7-0 in the opening game of the NCAA Division II Championship Finals on Thursday afternoon at the James I. Moyer Sports Complex.
UCSD got yet another stellar performance from Gaito in the circle, while the Triton offense took advantage of seven C.W. Post errors en route to the team's sixth consecutive victory in NCAA Tournament play.
UCSD (42-13) advances to face the winner of Saginaw Valley State and Minnesota State-Mankato in the top half of Bracket 1 on Friday at 1:00 pm. PST, while CWP (41-15) will face the loser of that matchup in an elimination game on Saturday at 9:00 a.m.
Saginaw Valley and Minnesota State-Mankato were scheduled to take the field at 11:30 on Thursday.
"This was a great win and a great way to start us off," head coach Patti Gerckens said. "We started a bit slowly offensively, but we picked it up late and Jenn came through with some clutch hits for us. Camille was great out there again and I just can't say enough about her effort."
Making her seventh straight postseason start, Gaito (32-4) turned in one of the best outings of her career, limiting the Pioneers to just two hits en route to her ninth shutout of the season. She struck out eight and did not issue a walk, cruising to her 29th complete game of the year.
Gaito, who was named a NFCA Second Team All-American earlier in the week, did not allow a hit after the second inning and retired 15 of the final 16 batters in order.
"It really helped that [C.W. Post] hadn't seen me before," she said. "I wasn't really doing anything different and even some of my missed pitches worked out. I didn't have to change my game plan too much because I had the advantage."
In addition to earning the win in the first College World Series game in UC San Diego softball history, Gaito also became the program's all-time leader in pitching victories with her 62nd career win. And if that wasn't enough, she set the single season record with her 44th appearance of the year as well.
"Camille is a really good pitcher, that's all there is to it," Gerckens added. "She moves the ball extremely well, she's smart and she battles each and every day. We knew that we were going to get a tremendous performance from her and that's what she gave us today."
While Gaito was keeping the Pioneers guessing all afternoon, the UCSD offense had a coming out party of sorts as the Tritons scored seven runs for the first time since early April. UCSD, which had scored three runs or fewer in all five of its NCAA Tournament wins prior to Thursday, scored one run in each of the second and third innings before adding three in the fifth and two in the seventh.
De Fazio had three hits and a walk, while Sarah Woofter reached base three times and came around to score on each occasion. The Tritons scored a total of four unearned runs in the game as C.W. Post committed costly errors in the second, third and fourth innings.
"As soon as we got ahead we were really at ease," Gaito said. "I felt like their errors motivated us to play harder and we just kept going from there."
The Tritons didn't have to wait long to take the lead as they scored in the second inning and never looked back. Kris Lesovsky reached on an error by the Pioneers' second baseman and advanced to second when the throw sailed over the first baseman's head. Katrin Gabriel, who had walked earlier in the inning, scored all the way from second on the play, sliding around catcher Kristen Morcone's tag for the early 1-0 lead.
UCSD added a run in the third as the Tritons capitalized on two more C.W. Post miscues. Woofter reached on an error by the shortstop and De Fazio followed with a single to right, with both runners advancing when outfielder Krysta Palazzo misplayed the ball. Designated player Tess Granath followed with a sacrifice fly to give UCSD a two-run edge.
The wheels fell off completely for the Pioneers in the fifth as there were two separate plays where two errors were called. Lesovsky reached on an error by the first baseman and then advanced on a muffed throw. She would eventually score on a squeeze bunt from De Fazio.
Woofter stole home later in the inning to make it 4-0 and Granath reached on an error by the third baseman and then advanced to second on another poorly thrown ball to first. De Fazio came home on the play, giving the Tritons a five-run lead.
UCSD's offense, which had produced just two hits through six innings, got going in the top of the seventh as the Tritons led off the inning with five straight singles to put the finishing touches on the victory. Pinch hitter Jennifer Manuel singled to right to drive in Woofter and Granath followed with an RBI single up the middle, scoring De Fazio.
C.W. Post starter Christina Berardi, who had recorded 26 complete games in 31 starts coming in, lasted just two batters into the third inning before she was lifted for Sarah Kizer. Berardi allowed two unearned runs on one hit in two innings, while Kizer surrendered five runs, three earned, on six hits the rest of the way.
Kerry Fisher and Morcone had the Pioneers' only two hits of the game.
Gerckens, now in her 19th season as the Tritons' skipper, was not the least bit surprised with her team's performance.
"We have an expectation and we feel very strongly that we're going to do well," Gerckens concluded. "This was just one game, but it was the type of start we were looking for."
For a complete box score and play-by-play, visit: