UMBC softball wins America East championship, continues on to NCAA tournament

After five scoreless innings, UMBC softball pulled ahead in the bottom of the sixth to successfully defend their 2019 America East title with a 1-0 win over No.3 seed Stony Brook in the 2021 America East Championship this past Saturday.

Sierra Pierce ‘21, design, drove in the winning runs in the Retriever’s final two games. A Second Team All-Conference selection, Pierce earned a spot on the All-Championship Team for the third time and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

Shanel Stott ‘23, information systems, hits an RBI triple in the first-round win over UMass Lowell last Thursday.

“I felt honored to be named,” says Pierce of her Most Outstanding Player achievement. “There’s a lot of talent on our team and there were many teammates who deserved to be recognized. It really was a team effort out there.”

Julia Keffler ‘22, media and communications studies, also a Second Team All-Conference selection, was named to the All-Tournament Team thanks to her spectacular showing at the plate and on the base paths.

Return honors

In light of the pandemic and the impact it had on many student-athletes, the NCAA granted athletes an additional year of eligibility to players. Maddie Daigneau ‘21, media and communications studies, was the only senior who elected to return to finish out her senior season. She also earned a spot on the All-Championship Team after batting .333 with a run scored, a stolen base, and stellar play at shortstop.

“I am so thankful to have the opportunity to come back for a fifth year and be a part of the growth of this talented program,” says Daigneau.

Coppersmith winds up to pitch against UMass Lowell.

Two-time America East Pitcher of the Year Courtney Coppersmith ’22, biochemistry, was the final Retriever to earn All-Championship Team honors, going 3-0 with just one run allowed and 25 strikeouts in three complete games. Coppersmith is the first student-athlete since 2001 to be a repeat America East Pitcher of the year.

Continuing a legacy

The victory earns UMBC its fourth-ever NCAA Tournament bid, and it’s the first of the four to be won at home. It was also the first championship win on campus for a Retrievers team since men’s soccer won the America East title at Retriever Soccer Park in 2014.

Despite returning almost its entire starting lineup from the 2019 championship team, the Retrievers were voted to finish third in the preseason coaches poll. UMBC then went on to go 11-5 in conference play, not only picking up its most conference wins in a season since 2009, but also winning its first-ever America East Regular Season championship, and earning the right to host the tournament.

UMBC comes out victorious in the rematch of the 2019 America East Championship. Photo courtesy of America East.

Head coach Chris Kuhlmeyer became the first Retriever Softball coach to be named America East Coach of the Year, after leading UMBC to its first-ever America East Regular Season title earlier this month.

“This will be a season I will never forget,” says Kuhlmeyer. “From rallying to win the regular-season title, to coming through with two outs in the sixth inning of the conference tournament championship game, there are so many memories I will take away and more to be made.”

The road to Arizona

The Retrievers will travel to Tucson, Arizona to face No.11 Arizona this Friday, May 21, at 8:30 p.m. for the first round of NCAA tournament play. The other two teams in the double-elimination, four-team pod are Villanova and the University of Mississippi.

“Arizona is a great team and one of the most historic programs in our sport. To face off against them in the first round of the regionals is certainly very exciting, but at the same time our Dawgs are not showing up just to say we made it to a regional,” assures Kuhlmeyer. “We’re coming with the mindset we are going to compete and do what we have done all year: fight all the way to the end for a victory, one game at a time.”

Ashley Della Guardia ’24, undergraduate studies, celebrates the America East win. Photo courtesy of America East.

An Arizona native, Daigneau will get to play in front of her family for the first time in her collegiate career.

“It’s the best feeling to play regionals at the place I first started playing softball and being able to play one of my last tournaments there as well,” shares Daigneau. “Arizona was the place that helped me meet all the wonderful people who have been a part of my softball journey. I can’t wait to see them watch our games live this weekend.”

Article written by Zach Seidel, director of athletics digital media. Featured image: UMBC softball poses with their America East trophy. Photo courtesy of America East. All additional photos courtesy of Marlayna Demond ‘11 unless otherwise noted.