When Eileen Purcell decided she wanted to attend Central Connecticut State University and play softball, she envisioned a solid program, a chance to play and perhaps be a part of something special right from the start.
Purcell is completing her freshman year at CCSU in style. She’s boarding a flight this afternoon to Louisiana for the start of the NCAA, Division 1 Tournament, which begins on Friday when her team takes on LSU.
A year ago now, Purcell was getting ready for the state tournament and lamenting an earlier ouster from the Essex County Tournament, where she had played brilliantly in 2011 as Nutley High School won its first county title in 18 years.
“Hard to believe, huh?” she said with a laugh this morning. “The time really flew by. I can’t believe freshman year is done. It’s been a great year for me in college and now, to be a part of going to the NCAA’s really makes it special. We can’t wait to get there.”
Central Connecticut State University won its first NEC title on May 11. Eileen Purcell is in the back, third from left. (Photo from the CCSU website).
Purcell was a two-time All State shortstop at Nutley. She was the Essex County Player of the Year in 2011 and played a major role in the 2010 team advancing to the Group 3 final after winning a state sectional title.
“I always follow Nutley and am really happy they’re playing well,” Purcell said, referring to the Raiders’ 16-6 mark so far this spring. “They were great times there.”
Eileen’s twin sister, Jamie, also enjoyed a good freshman year while playing at The College of New Jersey. Jamie Purcell was a standout catcher for four years at Mount St. Dominic Academy in Caldwell. She hit .286 in her freshman year at TCNJ, starting all 39 games she appeared in while playing brilliant defense with a .996 fielding percentage. TCNJ was 26-15 this year, playing in the NJAC.
Eileen Purcell (second from right) with twin sister Jamie, mom, Karen, and father, Tim, after Eileen’s final high school game for Nutley High on May 25, 2012 at Mount St. Dominic Academy. Both Purcell sisters are playing softball on the collegiate level, with Eileen at Central Connecticut State University and Jamie playing for The College of New Jersey.
Central Connecticut State will take a 35-13 record into the NCAA Tourney on Friday. It defeated LIU Brooklyn, 4-3, on May 11 to win the school’s first-ever Northeast Conference (NEC) championship and earn the automatic tourney berth. Purcell, who moved back to shortstop after starting the season at third base, caught a pop up for the game’s final out. Purcell’s outstanding defense in the championship game was noted on the CCSU website.
For the season, Purcell is batting .272 with two homers, 16 RBI and 17 runs scored. She noted the college game is loaded with good pitching.
“It’s a faster game, but the key is the pitching,” Purcell said. “There’s hard throwers everywhere.”
As far as NCAA’s, CCSU has no fear, according to Purcell.
“We’re really excited about the chance to play LSU,” Purcell said. “We thought maybe we’d be headed either south, or west, for the tournament. We know we’re the underdogs, but we’re here to play. Everyone’s excited.”