Rowan softball gets revenge on Ramapo, captures second NJAC title in three years

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Rowan softball celebrates its second NJAC title in three years. - Photo via Rowan Athletics

Rowan softball is once again the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) champions. The Profs defeated the Ramapo Roadrunners on Saturday, May 11 by a final score of 1-0 to secure the 13th NJAC title in program history and second in the last three years.

Last season, the Profs were eliminated by the Roadrunners in the semifinals, but they were able to get their revenge this time around.

“It feels great,” Pitcher, Rylee Lutz said. “I am on top of the world right now. It was great to finally win an NJAC title with this team.”

Lutz got the start against Ramapo following a dominant performance the previous Tuesday against the Kean Cougars, one that featured a complete game shutout. It was more of the same for Lutz in this game, as the junior pitched six scoreless innings and allowed just two hits.

“I was mixing speeds in and out,” Lutz said. “I was trying to keep them on their toes as much as possible.”

Katie Rygel, a member of the All-Conference First Team, hit a walk-off, two-run home run against Rowan in last year’s playoff game. In the sequel, Rygel got a hit and was then intentionally walked in her next at-bat, which proved to be an effective strategy to neutralize Ramapo’s best hitter.

At the plate, things started slowly for the Profs, but one player who did not have trouble was All-Conference First Team shortstop Payton MacNair. Rowan totaled six hits on the day, and MacNair had three of them, all of which were doubles.

“I’ve been overthinking during at-bats lately,” MacNair said. “I told myself coming in today not to think as much. Just go up there and hit the ball where it is pitched on the barrel. That approach has been really working out for me.”

The most important of those doubles came after a Liz McCaffery single, as MacNair drove a ball into left field that scored McCaffery from first to score the only run of the game for either team.

In the bottom of the seventh, the Profs brought in Emily McCutcheon for the save. McCutcheon had not pitched since her record-breaking 220-pitch, 20-inning performance on Monday against The College of New Jersey (TCNJ).

“We wanted to throw something different at them,” head coach Kim Wilson said. “Rylee was pitching great, but it was just part of our plan heading into the game.”

The one-two punch of Lutz and McCutcheon has been one of the Profs’ biggest strengths in 2024, especially during the playoffs.

“I have full confidence in our two starters,” MacNair said. “They have been carrying us throughout this season. They have been holding down their ground and doing what they need to do. I have full confidence in what they need to do.”

Lutz and McCutcheon have also gotten tremendous help from Rowan’s defense. That certainly reigned true in this game; whether it was Abigail Pawlowski making a diving catch in the outfield or Breanna Bryant playing a bunt perfectly and catching the ball in the air, the defense continually stepped up.

“It is the best thing ever. I know even when I miss a pitch, they are going to have my back. They will carry me through,” Lutz said.

The Profs now have the opportunity to play at home, where they are undefeated this season, during the regional tournament, and Centenary will be the first team to challenge Rowan on Thursday, May 16. Considering the adversity they’ve faced and the tight games they’ve won throughout the postseason, the Profs know more challenges await, but they’re ready for it.

“These games have been very intense for us,” MacNair said. “They are the most exciting games though. Anything can happen, everyone is dialed in from start to finish. It is nice to stay in it with everybody.”

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