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Victoria Gunnels, Dayna White hit homers as Molloy closes in on ECC title, NCAA berth

By Steven Marcus

Molloy College's Dayna White connects for a grand slam on a 3-2 count that cleared the centerfield scoreboard to give her team a 4-0 lead in the top of the fourth inning of Game 2 of the NCAA East Super Regional vs. host Adelphi University on May 18, 2013. (Credit: James Escher) The Molloy College softball team is one victory away from its fourth consecutive East Coast Conference title and automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Saturday's 6-5 victory over host LIU Post means the visiting Lions need one victory over the Pioneers on Sunday in the double-elimination tournament, which begins at 10 a.m.

Molloy first baseman Victoria Gunnels hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning to complete a three-run rally that erased a 5-3 deficit. Post (42-8), which defeated Dowling, 10-5, in the late afternoon elimination game, is assured of an NCAA berth. Molloy (29-20-1) is not.

"We have two chances, two games to claim the title," Gunnels said. "That's our only way of making it into the [NCAAs] and we really want to make it. If we lose, that's not going to get us in."

Gunnels said of her homer: "It was exciting. I felt relaxed, which was surprising because this game was very tense, it was close. I was just like wait for your pitch. That inside pitch came in and I just let it go."

Molloy also received a big game from catcher Dayna White, who drove in three runs with a single, double and home run. In the first inning, White doubled home a run after power hitter Milan Botte was intentionally walked with a runner on second.

"It [ticked] me off a little bit," White said. But then she realized Post's strategy, saying, "[Botte's] a great hitter. We would have done that with a hitter like Milan."

Molloy coach Susan Cassidy-Lyke didn't have to tell her team the importance of winning the ECC. "This year, it means even more to us because we're not going to make the regional unless we win here."

Molloy would prefer to wrap it up quickly. "One and done," White said, "that's what we're looking for."

Post also wants the title.

"The girls feel like they beat themselves in the first game," coach Jamie Apicella said, and are expecting to "play 14 innings of good softball."

Notes & quotes: Queens (31-17-1) was eliminated by Dowling (25-24), 19-3, as Jamie Laird drove in eight runs with a grand slam, a two-run homer and an RBI single.