Trio of Culley, Jackson, Serrano lead Dukes back to Region Final Four

Cumberland returns to the Region Final Four for the first time since 2016.
Cumberland returns to the Region Final Four for the first time since 2016.

For the entire Cumberland roster, Tuesday would be their first career postseason game. Anxious jitters were sure to take hold in Game 1 of the 1st round, best of 3 series against Sussex County.  Earlier in the season, the Dukes swept the Skylanders in a doubleheader. Sussex, the 5th seed in the postseason, were determined to avenge those losses.

Cumberland provided an uphill battle as Alyse Jackson delivered a two-run opposite field home run to give the Dukes an early 2-0 lead in Game 1. After giving up a run in the 3rd, Gianna DeMarco singled in a run in the 4th to give the Dukes a 3-1 lead. The Skylanders would answer with a 3-run home run in the 5th inning by Amanda Maxwell to take the lead late in the game.  Cumberland would answer with 2 runs of their own in the 5th, however, Sussex would send 8 batters to the plate in the 6th to take the lead for good at 7-5. Cumberland would go quietly in the 7th and drop Game 1, 7-5. Breanna Suppi received the start in the circle for the Dukes and provided 5 strong innings before giving way to fellow sophomore hurler, Megan Culley.  

In Game 2, the Dukes vowed not to run out of steam. Led by the offensive charge of Alyse Jackson, the Dukes took a 1-0 lead on an RBI single by Jackson. Then in the 3rd, Jackson would deliver once again with a 2-run double to give the Dukes a 3-0 lead.  A wild pitch would score a run for the Dukes in the 4th before Jackson would once again take care of business, drilling a triple with the bases loaded in 6th to give the Dukes a 7-0 lead that they would not relinquish. Megan Culley started for the Dukes in the circle and dominated.  Culley went the distance, striking out two while scattering four hits.

In the deciding Game 3, the Dukes pounced early once again behind the offense of Jackson and centerfielder, Alicia Serrano. Jackson would deliver in the 1st with an RBI double to score Sarah Morgan to give the Dukes a 1-0 lead. Jackson would then score on an RBI single by Breanna Suppi.  Two innings later, Serrano would deliver a booming shot over the left field fence for a 3-run home run sending the home fans and her teammates into a frenzy.  Cumberland would add two more runs in the following inning on RBIs by Jackson and Breanna Suppi to give the Dukes a commanding 7-1 lead heading into the 5th inning.  In the 6th, Rosa Lasalandra would leadoff with a single which would then be followed by a single from Sarah Morgan. Culley, the starting pitcher for the Dukes, would help her cause with an RBI single to score Lasalandra and move Morgan to 3rd.  Morgan would then score on a wild pitch to give the Dukes the 9-1 victory.

In the circle, Culley faced early pressure as the Skylanders loaded the bases with no outs in the 1st on two walks and an error. However, Culley escaped the jam without giving up a run on a double play followed by a pop out.  From there, Culley would be on cruise control despite giving up an RBI triple in the 2nd inning.  She would go the distance once again, striking 2 hitters while giving up just 2 hits.

Cumberland now moves on to the Region XIX Final Four where they will meet the #1 seed, Brookdale Community College. They will meet in a best-of-3 series for the right to the NJCAA DIII Softball World Series in Rochester, MN. The Dukes made back to back Region XIX Final Fours in 2015 and 2016, winning the title in 2015. Since 2016, the Dukes did not reach the postseason until this current season.