The reigning North Coast Athletic Conference Softball Pitcher of the Year wasted no time beginning her title defense.
Allegheny College sophomore Caitlin Nealer (Valley) was dominant in her season debut as the Gators pulled a pair of upsets over nationally ranked teams at Virginia Beach.
A power pitcher her entire career, Nealer struck out 25 across the two-game sweep. She posted 12 K's and allowed just two hits in a 4-2 victory over Division III No. 16 Rowan.
Before the catcher's glove could cool off, Nealer fanned 13 in a career-high eight innings in a 3-0 win over No. 6 Christopher Newport.
Nealer has nine career shutouts. Her previous high for K's in a game in college was 11.
Senior defenseman Zach Hepler (Freeport) helped the Corsairs (12-7-7) to their fourth appearance in the Division III National Championship Tournament and their 12th conference title. Hepler has played in 25 games and has 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) for UMass-Dartmouth, which defeated top-seeded Plymouth State, 2-1, to win the Massachusetts Collegiate Athletic Conference championship.
Hepler came to the Corsairs after a stint with the Dixie Beehives of the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
Junior Nick Gentile (Freeport) ran a personal-best and broke his school record in the 800-meter run with a time of 1:52.15 at the IC4A/ECAC Championships at Boston University.
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